Do you feel like you have grown significantly since you arrived at Auburn as a freshman?
McFadden: I have grown up a lot. I am thankful that I came here. With me being from the city, you never know. I could have stayed with my friends and gotten into a lot of trouble. Auburn is a lot calmer place. You can still have fun here. You can also get into trouble. I have found that Auburn is a place that has kept me humble. It made me realize I was a guy who needed this--a guy who needed to get away from home.
Your teammate, defensive lineman Mike Blanc, grew up in south Florida, too, and he told Inside the Auburn Tigers that he really needed to get away from the bad influences back home. Did you grow up close to where Blanc is from?
McFadden: "We are like three minutes away from each other. We are are basically from Fort Lauderdale, but we are broken up into small cities. We are from like two or three exits away. It's not like it's 15 or 20 minutes away. It's like a two-minute exit. We basically grew up in the same area. We heard of people getting killed doing drug dealing. Basically, all of our friends are still there and most of them aren't doing too much. It's just bad to be in an environment where people don't care about what you are trying to do with your life. They are just worrying about having fun and doing what is best for them.
By us leaving and coming up here we have people like our coaches, the study hall people, Troy Smith (counselor), Brett Wohlers (counselor) and everybody who deals with football--they all care about us and we notice they all want to see us succeed.
With all of the progress you have made as a football player in college, the idea of playing professionally must be on your mind, correct?
McFadden: It has always been my dream to go to the NFL, but once I got the chance to meet Brother Chette (team chaplain Chette Williams) I was blessed to be able to meet him and grow spiritually with him. By me growing with him, I have graduated now and I am blessed whether I am drafted or if I am not drafted. I know I have been blessed to be able to play the game of football from the age of seven all of the way to now as a 22-year-old and love the game. Yes, I would love to play in the NFL, but if it doesn't happen I have my degree.
Your new cornerbacks coach this season is Phillip Lolley, someone who has been around the program since you got to Auburn in 2005. How is your relationship with him and what stands out about him?
McFadden: "Coach Lolley, like me, is a man-guy (man to man coverage). I like to get in your face. My favorite player is Al Harris (Green Bay Packers cornerback) and he is a jam guy. I talk to him a lot on the phone. He is upset his team has a new defensive coordinator and he has to play off (soft coverage). I have had to go through a lot of different coaches to learn how to play all of these different positions (cornerback, nickel and dime packages). Something that I love about Coach Lolley is he fights for us to be able to play up in your face.
Did you learn a lot from each of the different secondary coaches you have played for at Auburn?
McFadden: "Yes I have. I think best guy I learned from was Muschamp (Will Muschamp) because he taught me schemes with the safeties and everything else."
What part of your game are you focusing on trying to get better at this offseason?
McFadden: "Everything. I have got strengths, but you always have to keep working on everything. One thing I am really working on very hard is my leadership. I was never the guy who stood out and tried to lead a team. I was a guy who listened, followed and did the right thing. That is my biggest goal right now. If at the end of the year we had to give a prize for being the biggest leader, I would want to win that prize.
I have to work on everything--my jamming, my "off," my back-pedaling, just staying with my guy and learning everybody's else's position so I can use that to my advantage.
Walt McFadden has played in 36 games for the Tigers during the past three seasons after redshirting i 2005 after arriving at AU from Ely High in Pompano Beach, Fla.
What kind of head coach has Gene Chizik been for the players so far?
McFadden: He has been an unbelievable head coach. When he recruited me in high school that is who I wanted to play for because of his ability to put cornerbacks in the NFL. If you look at each cornerback who has left out of Auburn since 2004, which is when I know about, they are playing. The are not just on the roster. I take pride in this school. With our work ethic, we are going to give it our all.
Now that he is my head coach, I see him working with everybody. I think he is not just a great secondary coach. I believe he is going to be a great defensive line coach, a great offensive line coach--at all positions I believe he is going to bring out the best in the players.
Compare yourself as a football player from your freshman to your senior year?
McFadden: Now I am six feet tall, 186 pounds. Back then I think I was 5-11 1/2 or 5-11, 152 pounds so that is the difference plus I am a little bit more outspoken. I work with the DBs and they are all following in my steps. I am trying to get the linebackers to follow me as well even though they have Josh Bynes there, who is a leader at that position. You have Antonio Coleman for the D-line to be a leader. I am trying to be a leader for the whole team.
McFadden started all 12 games for the Tigers last season and made 29 tackles, deflected 10 passes and intercepted two passes.
What do you think will be the keys to having the type of season you want to have as a senior.?
McFadden: For me it would be to have 40 or 50 tackles and as many interceptions as I can get, but I think what all of us are shooting for is to win a championship. It is not about who has the most tackles or who has the most interceptions, it is about us becoming a team and working together. It is about us gang-tackling so they won't know who to give that tackle to or who to give that fumble to because all of us are all over it. Our whole momentum is to be as one.
Are there going to be players this season who you think will step up and be pleasant surprises for the 2009 Tigers?
McFadden: There are so many, especially on the defense. I think our starting 11 can play with anybody in the country. I won't be surprised about what guys do on defense because I already believe in them. On offense, I think our front line is going to be great. I am going to love seeing what Benton (wide receiver signee DeAngelo Benton) can do. I have already seen him in practice. My whole thing is, once we find out who our quarterback is he will be the guy to lead our offense. I believe any one of the quarterbacks can lead us to the championship. It is just which quarterback is going to do it."
This team isn't getting much preseason respect. What is your take on the 2009 squad?
McFadden: I can tell you this--we will see in December. We can't talk about how good we are or what our ratings are. I remember when we were No. 2 in the country (2006 season) and we lost to Arkansas. I can say this team that we have right now has more athletes and more athletic people on the team than we had then--especially speed-wise it was totally different. However, that team back then had the attitude to play as one and that is the difference right now.
Right now, we have got guys on our team who are coming along. We are still pushing to get guys to play as one. We are getting there and hopefully by the time camp is over, or before camp, we will be one and I guarantee we will be one. Right now we are still pushing to become one. It is moving pretty fast, but it is not solid yet, it is not consistent. Once we get back to that consistent level, I believe ratings don't mean anything. We will just show you on Saturdays.