It had been a few years since Darren McFadden pulled up to 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, but when he was dropped off earlier this week, it felt just like it did a decade ago when he arrived from the University of Arkansas as a rookie eager to make his mark in Silver and Black.
“It’s funny, because I was getting dropped off back here in the back, and just walking up I was like, dang, it started all over again,” said McFadden. “It’s definitely a cool feeling just to be out here and welcomed the way that I am.”
McFadden, along with a handful of other former Raiders, was back in the mix earlier this week to share wisdom with the current crop of rookies, and although “D.Mac” is ten years removed from his first NFL campaign, he still knows exactly how the youngsters are feeling.
And now, as a player who just put the finishing touches on his own career, it was important for him to share what did – and didn’t – work for him as a professional.
“I think the main part for me was to let them know, just because you’re here, doesn’t mean you’ve arrived yet,” McFadden said. “You still have a lot of work that you have to put in, a lot of things that you have to do, and take care of your business the right way, but my main thing, I just want to let them know, you have to go out there and work, grind, and don’t feel like you’ve arrived already.”
McFadden’s career in Oakland was an interesting one; his last season as a Raider (2014) was Derek Carr and Khalil Mack’s rookie season, and although the team won just three games that year, 2014 really was a turning point for the organization, both on and off the field.
In the coming months, the team would build a high-end performance center, as well as re-do many aspects of the practice facility, and as impressive as all of those additions have been, what really resonated for the No. 6 rusher in franchise history was seeing the familiar faces still roaming the halls.
“It’s definitely super cool, man,” McFadden said. “I hadn’t been out here in probably three years, and then when I walked in, and I saw Bob [Romanski], and ‘Mo’ [Danny Molina], and Scotty [Touchet], and H. Rod [Martin], and Chris [Cortez], and all those guys, it’s like you’ve never been away from here, and everybody just welcomed me right back in, and it’s just great to come and talk to these guys.”
For the most part, McFadden enjoyed a bountiful, individual career as a Raider. Like we said earlier, his 4,247 rushing yards has been bested by just five men, and while he averaged over four yards per carry during his time in Oakland, the team success just wasn’t there for much of his time in the East Bay.
However, McFadden still looks back on his career in Oakland fondly, acknowledging that those early years shaped him both on and off the field.
“For me, the wins weren’t there, but I feel like the Raiders made me the player I became,” McFadden recounted. “Having to deal with injuries, and not winning seasons, and things like that, it made you become a better player, and I feel like it made me work harder. It made me even more hungry, and I feel like that’s something I’m going to take with me in life.”
And although the former Arkansas Razorback spent the final three years of his career in Dallas, make no mistake about it, McFadden certainly subscribes to the “once a Raider, always a Raider” philosophy.
“I have so much love for Oakland and the Raiders organization,” McFadden said. “Even when I was in Dallas and we played, and sometimes they made a good play or something, I was like, ‘oh yeah, good job.’ Then I had to think about it and be like, ‘oh, you’re not on [that] sideline.’”
He continued, “It’s still a family atmosphere, that’s what I like to call it. They did some rearranging with the building, but everybody welcomes you with open arms, that’s one good thing about being here.”
McFadden spoke to the rookies about the importance of talking with the team’s veterans, and he shared some of the guys he leaned on as a young player:
“When I came in, Justin Fargas was one of my veteran running backs, and Michael Bush. Those guys were ahead of me when I came in, and those are two of the guys I talked to a whole lot, man, and just asked for advice, because we were all in the same room together, and so those are some of the guys I really talked to, and leaned on a whole lot.”
McFadden said the current Raiders should expect one thing from Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia; energy.
“Coach Bisaccia, that’s my guy. As long as you’re taking care of your business, and doing what you’re supposed to do, he’s going to be that guy for you, but if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do, he’s definitely going to let you know. He’s a straight shooter, and that’s one of thing I love about him… He brings a lot to the team, because a lot of his energy kind of rubs off on the players as well. That’s something I really like about him.”
He also gave his breakdown of offensive line coach Tom Cable.
“I played with Cable when he was the offensive line coach, and when he was the head coach here. He just brings a lot to the table, just the knowledge that he has for football, and he knows to make guys get going. That’s something that I really loved, and I enjoyed playing for him.”