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MCFADDEN FEAT. AT FORT SMITH CONVENTION CENTER

Darren McFadden said he was thrilled to be selected as the guest speaker for Thursday’s inaugural River Valley Best of Preps athletic banquet.

The former University of Arkansas standout running back, who is now with the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys, added that it meant a lot more personally for him because McFadden is an Arkansas native.

Darren McFadden, right, answers questions from moderator Greg Hale during the Times Record's Best of the River Valley Preps banquet on Thursday, June 1, 2017 at the Fort Smith Convention Center. [BRIAN D. SANDERFORD/TIMES RECORD] 

“I feel like it’s a great event, coming back to talk to high school kids that are from Arkansas and me being an Arkansas kid, that’s an honor,” McFadden said prior to Thursday’s event at the Fort Smith Convention Center. “I never had the opportunity growing up being around any NFL players, I didn’t get to speak with any of them and I just feel like I can say some words to these kids and it will go a long way for them, and being from Arkansas, that can mean a lot to them.

“It’s funny because a lot of people are always asking me where I’m originally from and I tell them I’m from Arkansas and they’re like, ‘I thought you just went to school there.’ But just being here, being back home in the state of Arkansas, man, it’s a great feeling and I love it.”

McFadden said he still comes back to Arkansas during the off-season to visit his family, who still lives in Little Rock. He added that it was his first time to visit Fort Smith since McFadden’s days as a Razorback.

This fall will mark exactly 10 years since McFadden last played for Arkansas.

“It’s crazy to even think about it,” he said. “I always tell people I feel like I was just a rookie last year or something, but the time has flown by; I came into the league in 2008 and here in 2017, I’m about to start my 10th season and still going strong.”

He added even to this day, he still gets praise from Razorback fans for what he was able to do for the program and for the school.

“Any time I run into some Arkansas fans, they always tell me how much they love what I did for the Razorbacks, and for me, I just really appreciated them and respect the fact that people have followed my career for so long and have stuck with me and I’ll say it’s a great honor, too,” McFadden said.

He added he still dwells about finishing as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to the most outstanding player in college football, in 2007. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was the recipient that year.

“I try to leave the past in the past, but I definitely think I should have (won the Heisman in 2007),” McFadden said. “I think the Florida guys, I feel like they have a little bit more publicity than we did here in Arkansas, so it was a tough deal for me. ... I still respect Tebow, he was a great player, I love what he did, and for me, it’s just a blessing to be able to still be going 10 years (in the NFL) and still going strong.”

McFadden, who was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2008, signed with the Cowboys prior to the 2015 season.

Last season, the Cowboys turned in a 13-3 regular season, but lost to Green Bay in the NFC divisional playoffs on a last-second field goal.

With training camp fast approaching, McFadden said he is looking forward to seeing what the Cowboys can do to build off of last season’s success.

“I always tell people, it reminds me of my sophomore year team up in Fayetteville (in 2006),” McFadden said. “We had a nice team that year, a great offense, great defense and I feel like we should have won the national championship that year; we had a few slip-ups, but I feel like this Cowboys team here reminds me of (that Razorbacks team).

“I feel like one of the main things for us is we have a team that everybody’s very close. ... Right now, it’s 70 to 80 guys all working for a common goal and that’s to go out and win a championship, so that’s something that we’re just working on and we’re just going to keep working every day and getting better each week.”