DMAC started off his collegiate career in 2005 by rushing for over 1,000 yards while earning SEC freshman of the year honors as a true freshman, no easy accomplishments in the defensive laden SEC. In 2006 he followed up his impressive freshman campaign by slashing and streaking for over 1,500 yards as he began to flash his arsenal of skills, by throwing for 3 touchdowns and rushing for 14 more. McFadden started lining up in the now NFL popular wildcat formation. Some might even say he is the player who is most responsible for this current NFL trend. 2006 also saw McFadden as a sophomore selected as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, where he finished second in the voting behind Troy Smith, and ahead of Brady Quinn. In 2007, his final season in college DMac would rack up over 1,800 yards on the ground. He was running for touchdowns, throwing for touchdowns, and even returning kicks. He finished second again in the Heisman voting and was named the nation’s best running back for the second year in a row. The second player to ever receive the Doak Walker award (Ricky Williams) twice.
Fast forward to last year, McFadden saw limited action in his first NFL game, on Monday night no-less against the hated division rivals, the Denver Broncos. Despite only touching the ball a total of 10 times he established himself as a force. He ended with 46 yards rushing on 9 attempts, good for a 5.1 yard per carry average, to go along with one reception for 11 yards. Week two would take place against another familiar foe to the Silver and Black, the possibly even more hated Kansas City Chiefs. The stage was set for the number 4 overall pick to go head to head, literally against a familiar foe from his rival SEC collegiate team, the number 5 overall pick from LSU, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. Forget about the fact that many so called “experts” and even Raiders fans were adamantly questioning the choice of selecting McFadden over the reigning national defensive player of the year in college football. He had to deal with playing in one of the most hostile environment in the NFL. So how did the young rookie fare? Let’s just say he followed up his second NFL game much like he followed up his true freshman season with his sophomore one, explosively! The stats speak for themselves. 21 rushes for 164 yards, good for a gaudy 7.8 yard per attempt clip, his first NFL touchdown and a catch for 9 yards.
Unfortunately DMAC ended up spraining his toe in the game, later which was diagnosed as a turf toe injury. Not long after that he would endure another turf toe injury to his other foot. The two debilitating injuries would greatly limit his foreseen explosiveness as he missed three games and saw declining action as the season winded down. Despite the injuries he would end his rookie campaign with 499 yards on 113 carries, good for a respectable 4.4 yard per carry average ( the best running back in the league Adrian Peterson averaged 4.8 last year) and four touchdowns.
Which brings us to this preseason, and a series of inevitable questions that come with it? Were the first two weeks a fluke, or was McFadden really hampered by those injuries last year? Has he healed from the turf toe injuries? Will he ever regain his explosiveness? Luckily for the Silver and Black all we needed to see was about 5 minutes of the first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, you know the team the Silver and Black will see again on turkey day. Well, 5 minutes… maybe more like a blink of an eye. RUN DMC taking a hand off and instantaneously making the other 21 players on the field look like they had lead feet, a 45 yard explosion that NASA would be envious about.
Fortunately, for the Nation it took a blink of an eye to answer those questions. Unfortunately, for the rest of the league, especially those foes in the AFC West …it took only one play to answer those questions.
Darren McFadden is in fact an NFL star in the making.
Here is a comparison of McFadden and Adrian Petersons first two games of their respective rookie seasons