Above, Darren McFadden autographs the back of a jersey worn by John Gillespie on Saturday in White Hall. Below, McFadden shakes hands with Jay Newton as McFadden’s father Gralon looks on. (Special to The Commercial/Bo Rogers)
WHITE HALL — Remember the number 1,800.
That’s the number of yards Darren McFadden wants to rush for this coming season, his fifth as an Oakland Raider.
“I feel like I just have to go out there, work hard and grind,” McFadden said Saturday. “I feel like 1,800 yards is a goal that is possible for me to go out there and reach. I just want to go out there and shoot for it.”
The goal is quite a saucy number for the running back who was at Sandy Acres Grocery and Market on Saturday morning to promote a sauce and sign autographs. “Sooey Sauce,” which uses a razorback as part of its logo, is based in Little Rock.
An early crowd began the “Woo … Pig! Sooie!” cheer upon seeing McFadden, a former University of Arkansas standout, coming to the tent. Before that, McFadden posed for photos with players of White Hall High’s 5A state championship baseball and softball teams.
“Kids are one of my passions, so I did ask Darren and all them if they would be kind enough to meet with all these kids that worked so hard, and they were gracious enough to do it,” said Sandy Acres store owner Scott Ray, who convinced McFadden’s representatives to bring him to White Hall after meeting them at a food show.
McFadden’s goal is more than two-thirds of the 2,627 yards he’s rushed for in his career. He had 614 yards through seven games last season before a Lisfranc injury, or midfoot sprain, to his right foot against the Kansas City Chiefs ended his season early.
McFadden has never played a full 16-game season due to numerous injuries. His biggest rushing season was 2010, when he ran for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns on 223 carries in 13 games.
But he’s determined to have an even bigger season — his first full campaign with quarterback Carson Palmer — and finally get the Raiders into their first playoffs since the 2002 season, when McFadden was a sophomore at Oak Grove (now Maumelle) High School.
“Getting hurt is something I never had to deal with until I got into the league,” McFadden said. “So, for me, it’s going out there and being determined to staying healthy, just get through the full season. I feel like if I make that, the Raiders will be in the playoffs.”
He’ll be the primary back for a team that saw its leading rusher last season, Michael Bush (977 yards), dealt to the Chicago Bears during the offseason. Despite his injury, McFadden still led the team in rushing yards per game at 87.7. He said his foot is 100 percent after going through the team’s recent organized team activities.
“I’m doing good. It was an optional camp and I was out there fully participating, so I’m ready to go,” McFadden said.
The Raiders are heading into their first season under coach Dennis Allen, who replaced the fired Hue Jackson after the team missed the playoffs at 8-8.
“Dennis Allen is a great guy,” McFadden said. “He goes out there and gets guys fired up. He gets guys ready to play. I’m looking forward to getting out there on the field with him.”
Oakland will open its preseason schedule at home against Dallas on Aug. 13 and the regular season at home against San Diego on Sept. 10.
More on McFadden
• 2,627 yards on 553 rushing attempts
• 1,191 yards on 116 receptions
• 16 touchdowns rushing and four receiving
• Age: 24
• 6-feet-2, 210 pounds
• Entering fifth season (all with Raiders)
• Arkansas running back, 2005-07; Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2006 and 2007