EXCLUSIVE: McFadden Talks Cowboys

McKINNEY, Tex. -- It is no secret that ol' Razorback Jerry Jones harbors a mancrush on Arkansas' Darren McFadden. But now, for the first time, TheRanchReport.com – after having visited with McFadden -- reveals that the feeling is mutual.

Fitting, too, inasmuch as our meeting occured on Valentine's Day.

"I love the Cowboys,'' McFadden told us on Thursday during a private workout in North Texas. "I loved the Cowboys growing up. My favorite player was Emmitt Smith. …''

McFadden, the top-rated running back in the upcoming NFL Draft, was in the area to continue his work at the Michael Johnson Performance Center in McKinney. Johnson is the former Olympic sprint champion who is now focusing on training athletes – specifically at this time helping college football players improve themselves in preparation for April's NFL selection process.

The training focus for McFadden, we're told, has been on speed and explosiveness. Now, those aren't exactly weaknesses – you don't become an All-American at Arkansas without being top-of-the-charts in those areas – but Johnson's training methods might made the tiniest difference.

And that tiniest difference could mean a slot or two in the draft, a million dollars or two in the bank, and a Pro Bowl selections or eight over the course of a professional career.

"I've learned a lot of technique stuff,'' says the 6-2, 215-pound McFadden. "I'm already a very explosive person, but this is making me even more explosive.''

McFadden says he doesn't concern himself too much with the numbers, trusting Johnson and staff to oversee that.

"With Michael, I know I'm learning from one of the best sprinters in the world,'' McFadden says, adding that he does not know specifically, for instance, how much he's affected his usual 40 time of 4.4 seconds. "No sir, they haven't told me. They just say, ‘That was good.' Or, ‘That was not so good at this point in your burst out of the start.

"They do a lot of high tech stuff that helps me understand the little things I have to do to get faster, see the holes better, stuff like that. Everything, really."

From what TheRanchReport.com staff has seen, his "everything'' is. … incredible. And "incredible'' is also the word Michael Johnson uses to describe his involvement in the experience.

"It is incredible for me,'' Johnson says, "because I'm seeing the progression over the weeks of a great athlete getting greater. And knowing that I had a part in (McFadden) capitalizing on his abilities. … that's special.''

Johnson knows special, both as an athlete and as a teacher. Michael won five gold medals and set two world records and since retirement has counted among his star pupils a kid named LaDainian Tomlinson, who worked with Johnson in 2001.

"We're not necessarily looking for the next great athlete with every kid,'' says Johnson, who works with athletes of all ages at his facility, which covers 24,000 square feet, includes a 60-yard indoor sprint track, a synthetic turf field, a basketball court, a weight room and might someday include a 4,000-seat outdoor stadium that could hold elite track events including Olympic Trials. "We're helping them to be better at whatever level they are. How fast can you make him? Well, it depends on how fast he is when you get him. I can't promise anyone we can make them great, but we can make them greater.''

Count McFadden among the impressed.

"Yes sir, everything at this place is great,'' he says politely. "It's unlike anything I've ever seen before.''

McFadden might be wishing that he gets to see more of the North Texas area. The Cowboys, of course, have two late picks in the first round, well beyond this draft's McFadden territory. Still, Jerry can dream. And so can Darren. And if McFadden doesn't get to join his favorite team and follow in the footsteps of his favorite player?

"I loved the Cowboys and Emmitt,'' he says. "But I also was a big fan of (Denver's) Terrell Davis.''

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