SPRINGDALE — Darren McFadden has grown accustomed to life in the NFL, where rosters are adjusted weekly and players come and go quickly.
“Things can change at the snap of a finger,” said McFadden, who was in Springdale on Friday directing a youth football camp at Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium. “It’s not like high school or college. It’s a business where a teammate one week could gone the next week and playing against you.”
McFadden is at a crossroads of his career as he approaches his sixth season in the NFL. The former Razorback is in the final year of a multi-million dollar contract after being selected fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2008 draft. He knows he needs a big year to be offered a long-term contract by the Raiders or to become an attractive free agent.
McFadden certainly doesn’t want a repeat of the last two seasons, when he missed 13 games because of injuries and set a career-low last year with 3.3 yards per carry.
McFadden, 25, should be helped by a change in philosophy by the Raiders, who hired Greg Olson to replace Greg Knapp as offensive coordinator. Olson will feature McFadden in the offense and get rid of the zone blocking scheme that Knapp preferred.
“I don’t like to run sideways,” said McFadden, who rushed for 1,157 yards and scored 10 touchdowns while playing 13 games in 2010. “I like going down hill. It’s the quickest way to get to the end zone.”
McFadden got to the end zone quickly and often during his career at Arkansas, where he was twice a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. He set a school record for rushing with 4,500 yards in three seasons from 2005-2007.
“Being from the state of Arkansas and having the rushing record is a great honor for me,” McFadden said. “I knew there was no other place for me when I came here.”
McFadden, 6-1, 215 pounds, will leave the state soon to train in McKinney, Texas at a facility headed by Michael Johnson, a sprinter and former Olympic gold medal winner. McFadden will then rejoin the Raiders, who have four Arkansans on their current roster.
In addition to McFadden, those players include offensive guard Mike Brisiel (Fayetteville/Colorado State), kicker Eddy Carmona (Charleston/Harding) and rookie quarterback Tyler Wilson (Arkansas/Greenwood), who was a fourth-round draft pick by the Raiders in April.
McFadden said he’s been impressed with Wilson during off-season workouts at the Raiders‘ camp.
“Tyler has been making great plays out there,” McFadden said. “He’s come in and taken control of the huddle. That’s something you have to do to earn the respect of your teammates.”
McFadden hopes to regain some respect for himself with a season that resembles the one he had in 2010 instead of the past two seasons. He aware it’s a contract year and an opportunity to quiet critics who’ve labeled him as injury prone.
“They have the right to say that right now, because I’ve had a few injuries,” McFadden. “It’s been a roller-coaster for me, up-and-down, but I want to stay focused and keep playing as hard as I can.”