Ex-Hog Darren McFadden says his run in NFL is over

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden talks with a teammate as he takes the field during Dallas Cowboys' NFL training camp, Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Oxnard, Calif. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden talks with a teammate as he takes the field during Dallas Cowboys' NFL training camp, Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Oxnard, Calif. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

For Darren McFadden, a long run has come to an end.

McFadden -- a Little Rock native who amassed 14,751 yards rushing, receiving, passing and returning kickoffs for the Arkansas Razorbacks and in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys -- announced his retirement from football Tuesday.

"When you look at a running back, there's only so much tread on those tires," said Houston Nutt, who was McFadden's head coach at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. "So Darren had a good, long tenure.

"I think what he did was unmatched at Arkansas. He helped the Razorbacks win a lot of games and he was off the charts running, catching, throwing, blocking and returning kicks."

McFadden, 30, announced his retirement with a Twitter post. He thanked numerous people, including his parents; his seventh-grade teacher at Oak Grove Middle School, Leecie Henson; his coaches at Oak Grove High School, Arkansas, and with the Raiders and Cowboys; Raiders owner Al Davis; Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his family; and his agent, Ian Greengross.

"Finally, I just want to say that I make this decision not with sadness or without further opportunity, but with a couple of days to reflect on how I feel and where I am at this stage of my life," McFadden said two days after being released by the Cowboys. "I know that this is the right move for me.

"I look forward to what the future holds -- spending more time with my family, pursuing outside interests and, of course, going to a few Arkansas football games."

McFadden, who was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame last year, signed with the Razorbacks after being a Parade High School All-American. He burst onto the national scene his freshman season at Arkansas in 2005 when he rushed for 1,113 yards and earned the first of three All-SEC first-team honors.

As a sophomore and junior, McFadden rushed for 1,647 and 1,830 yards, respectively. He won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back in both seasons, finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, and was a two-time first-team All-American and SEC Offensive Player of the Year.

Jonathan Luigs, who as a junior with the Razorbacks in 2007 won the Rimington Award as the nation's top center, said it was a pleasure to block for McFadden.

"Darren was one of those once-in-a-lifetime players for Arkansas," Luigs said. "The fans will remember him forever. He etched his name in history for sure.

"To be a part of it was pretty cool. I'm thankful I'll be able to tell my kids and grandkids I played with Darren McFadden."

McFadden is Arkansas' all-time leading rusher with 4,590 yards and is second on the SEC's career list behind Herschel Walker, who gained 5,290 at Georgia and won the Heisman Trophy as a junior in 1982 before turning pro.

Nutt and Luigs both said they believe McFadden -- rather than Tebow -- should have won the 2007 Heisman Trophy. In addition to McFadden's 325 carries for 1,830 yards and 16 touchdowns, he caught 21 passes for 164 yards and 1 touchdown; completed 6 of 11 passes for 123 yards and 4 touchdowns; and returned 16 kickoffs for 316 yards.

"There's no doubt in my mind Darren should have won the Heisman Trophy when he was a junior," Nutt said. "I know Tebow was a great player, but I just thought Darren deserved it that year.

"People said one of the reasons Darren didn't win it the year before was because he was a sophomore. But then Tebow won it as a sophomore. I was just really disappointed for Darren that night he didn't win the Heisman."

McFadden rushed for more than 100 yards in 22 games for Arkansas, including a school-record 321 against South Carolina in 2007 that tied the SEC mark set by Vanderbilt's Frank Mordica against Air Force in 1978.

But McFadden's most memorable performance came against No. 1 LSU in 2007, when the Razorbacks beat the No. 1 Tigers 50-48 in triple overtime in Baton Rouge. McFadden rushed 32 times for 206 yards and 3 touchdowns and had a 24-yard touchdown pass to fullback Peyton Hillis.

"Darren was at his best on the biggest stages," Nutt said.

Dean Weber, Arkansas' longtime trainer who now works at the Razorback Foundation, remains close friends with McFadden.

"I feel the same about Darren now as I did 13 years ago when he first came to us," Weber said. "Just a great kid besides being an outstanding player.

"As great a player as he was, he's an even better person. He's as polite as any player we've ever had. It's always 'yes sir,' and 'no sir,' and he cares about other people. I look forward to seeing him more now. We want him around as much as possible."

Luigs said the offensive linemen didn't have to hold their blocks long for McFadden to turn a play into a big gain.

"Darren would hit a hole like he was a sprinter coming out of the starting blocks," Luigs said. "That speed really caught defenses off guard. It was a joy to watch him run and a joy to play with him."

Weber said McFadden benefited from having tailback Felix Jones and Hillis as teammates.

"We were extremely fortunate to have three of the best running backs we've ever had play here at the same time in Felix, Peyton and Darren," Weber said. "They complemented each other so well."

Nutt said he has no doubt McFadden could have been an All-American outside linebacker or safety if he chose to play defense, but he was meant to star at running back.

"His endurance and his physicality were unbelievable," Nutt said. "When he ran, he dished out punishment. He gave it back to the safeties. They got tired of trying to tackle him.

"If a safety took a bad angle, he was gone, because Darren was a home run hitter with that speed. But if the safety did take the right angle, it wasn't much fun for him because now he had to go try to take on Darren, who was 6-2 and 215 pounds of solid muscle that would come right at you."

McFadden was the No. 4 overall pick by Oakland in the 2008 NFL Draft. He played seven seasons with the Raiders, but he missed 27 games because of injuries. His best season in Oakland was 2010 when in 13 games he rushed 223 times for 1,157 yards and 7 touchdowns, and caught 47 passes for 507 yards and 3 touchdowns.

In his first season with Dallas in 2015, McFadden had 239 carries for 1,089 yards and 3 touchdowns, and 40 catches for 328 yards. The last two seasons McFadden played in just four games with 25 carries for 85 yards.

McFadden played in 103 games in his NFL career, including 74 starts, and had 5,421 yards rushing and 2,114 receiving with a combined 33 touchdowns.

"Darren played about three times as long as most running backs do in the NFL," Weber said. "He had a fine career. It could have been better, but he had some injury problems.

"All good things have to come to an end, and this was just his time to retire from football. But whatever he's doing next, he's going to be fine."

McFadden joked on his Twitter account about his next move.

"Now that I have some free time, I just realized that @RazorbackFB needs a new Head Coach," McFadden tweeted. "Hit me up! #WPS."

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Quite a run

• Career statistics for Darren McFadden (Pulaski Oak Grove, Arkansas Razorbacks), who announced his retirement Tuesday after playing 10 seasons in the NFL.

ARKANSAS (2005-2007)

YEAR;G;RUSH;YARDS;AVG.;TD;REC;YARDS;AVG;TD

2005;11;176;1,113;6.3;11;14;52;3.7;0

2006;14;284;1,647;5.8;14;11;149;13.5.;1

2007;13;325;1,830;4.6;16;21;164;7.8;1

TOTAL;38;785;4,590;4.8;41;46;365;7.9;2

NFL (OAKLAND 2008-2014, DALLAS 2015-2017)

YEAR;G;RUSH;YARDS;AVG.;TD;REC;YARDS;AVG;TD

2008;13;113;499;4.4;4;29;285;9.8;0

2009;12;104;357;3.4;1;21;245;11.7;0

2010;13;223;1,157;5.2;7;47;507;10.8;3

2011;7;113;614;5.4;4;19;154;.8.1;1

2012;12;216;707;3.3;2;42;658;6.1;1

2013;10;114;379;3.3;5;17;108;6.4;0

2014;16;155;534;3.4;2;36;212;5.9;0

2015;16;239;1,089;4.6;3;40;328;8.2;0

2016;3;24;87;3.6;0;3;17;5.7;0

2017;1;1;-2;-2.0;0;None

TOTAL;103;1,302;5,421;4.2;28;254;2,114;8.3;5

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