As a rule, guys with gigantic feet and exploding cigars don't intimidate your average SEC coach. But guys with quick feet and explosive talent do, even if they dress up funny once a year.
Case in point: Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, the 2006 Heisman Trophy runner-up. Speaking at Wednesday's session of SEC Media Days, McFadden admitted that when he isn't suiting up in football gear for the Razorbacks, he likes to suit up in clown attire for Halloween.
When asked what kind of clown he was last Halloween, McFadden deadpanned: "A big one."
Indeed. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, he is big for a clown. He's also big for a running back.
"Darren McFadden is very, very special, as you know," Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said. "If you saw him live for the first time, the first thing you'd say is, ‘He's bigger than I thought … taller than I thought.' Then if you got to see him live from the sideline, you'd say, ‘Boy, he's faster than I thought. He's very, very tough.'"
Big, tall, fast, tough and enormously talented, McFadden is everything you look for in a running back but rarely find in one package. Nutt compares him to former NFL great Barry Sanders, who played at Oklahoma State while Nutt was an aide there.
"The one thing Barry Sanders had was a tremendous work ethic," Nutt recalled. "The one thing I notice about Darren … he has a tremendous work ethic. He's unselfish, great character, a tremendous leader for us."
McFadden is also a tremendous weapon for the Razorbacks. He rushed for 1,647 yards as a sophomore last fall, winning consensus first-team All-America recognition. He also won the Doak Walker Award as the NCAA's premier running back.
A former prep quarterback, McFadden completed 7 of 9 passes for 69 yards and three touchdowns from shotgun formation in Arkansas's "wildcat package" last fall. He also caught 11 passes for 149 yards and returned 10 kickoffs for 262 yards. Clearly, the guy can do it all.
Given the incredible success he has enjoyed, McFadden might be at risk of becoming arrogant or even complacent. To date, however, he has avoided those pitfalls.
As Nutt noted: "We always kid him: Are you still Darren McFadden? Are you still that same guy we recruited, that hungry guy?'"
From all indications, McFadden is still that guy. He also is the odds-on favorite for the 2007 Heisman Trophy. And, blessed with 4.3 speed over 40 yards, he is almost certainly the fastest clown in history.