|McFadden will have some sisterly help in the NFL|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 22 April 2008 12:54|
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
Darren McFadden's sister can rattle off the list at a moment's notice.
``Miami, Atlanta, St. Louis, Oakland,'' Gaylon Muhammad says.
Those four teams are picking at the top of this weekend's NFL draft in New York, and although McFadden's whole family is eager to find out where the star running back is headed, Muhammad might be affected the most.
Wherever he goes, she goes. Muhammad plans to move in with her younger brother to help him adjust to life as a pro football player.
``I'm not going to be a travel agent, I can tell you that,'' she says with a laugh. ``Pretty much, if he has any questions or concerns, I'll be there for him to help answer anything. If it's something that he doesn't want to take care of, that'll be allocated toward me.''
A senior at Memphis, Muhammad is in the middle of finals. She majors in business and sales, so she should be in her element next year helping McFadden manage finances. She might also give him a few tips on how to elude opposing defensive backs - Muhammad is a sprinter and triple jumper for the track and field team at Memphis.
McFadden and Muhammad are two of Mini Muhammad's 12 children. The family's struggles have been well documented - from Mini Muhammad's past drug use to the gang scene McFadden's brothers were involved with.
McFadden and his sister were able to avoid much of that. Their father, Gralon McFadden, isn't married to Mini Muhammad, but he played a major role in raising Darren and Gaylon.
``We lived with our mother, but from the time we got out of school, we've never stayed too far away from our father,'' Gaylon Muhammad says. ``From the time we got out of school, to the time it was bedtime, we were usually with our dad.''
Over the years a bond developed between these two athletes. Some siblings look forward to moving out on their own. Not Darren and Gaylon.
``He was quite upset when I decided to go to Memphis, and he was knowing that he was going to the University of Arkansas. ... We kind of had a fight about it.'' Gaylon Muhammad says. ``We have a really strong bond with our brothers and sisters. ... I don't know if it was because our mother was in the situation that she was in and that brought us closer together instead of tearing us apart.''
The big question now is what area they'll be moving to. Miami plans to take Michigan tackle Jake Long with the No. 1 pick. St. Louis is second, followed by Atlanta, Oakland, Kansas City and the New York Jets.
Darren McFadden is already in New York, a sign that his whirlwind is almost over. This weekend, he'll find out where he's heading after weeks of team visits, media obligations and NFL functions.
``Who knows how many different cities,'' he says. ``Airplanes here, airplanes there.''
McFadden should be used to the attention by now. The Arkansas star finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2006 and was an early front-runner last year before finishing second again.
McFadden participated in conference calls all season and traveled to New York for the Heisman ceremony, but in between all that, his life was reasonably normal for a college football player. Even the Heisman hype has its limits.
``It doesn't compare to this,'' he says. ``This is going to be a life-changing event.''
McFadden has answered plenty of questions about his past, about the problems that surrounded him when he was younger. McFadden himself was involved in a couple off-the-field incidents that raised concerns, including a fight in 2006 outside a club near his mother's Little Rock, Ark., home. McFadden injured his toe that night - luckily for the Razorbacks, he healed quickly.
There's no telling what pitfalls might lie ahead for McFadden if he's not careful, and his family seems to understand the need to look out for him. Gaylon Muhammad says that's always been true, even among those living more dangerous lives.
``Our brothers - they didn't want him involved in anything like that,'' she says. ``Everybody thinks that they were a bad influence because they were in gangs, but they weren't. They were showing us - this is not the life you guys need to live.''
McFadden's relatives have consistently downplayed the financial impact of his move to the NFL, and the running back is no different. Besides a new home for his mother - ``That is going to be one of the first things I do'' - McFadden doesn't go into much detail about how he'll spend his wealth.
Perhaps he's having a hard time processing it all.
``It hasn't all just set in on me yet,'' McFadden says. ``I'm getting there.''
One more thing: McFadden doesn't seem embarrassed by the idea of living with his sister. Hey, at least she doesn't outrun him anymore.
``He actually didn't beat me until maybe his junior year in high school?'' Gaylon Muhammad says. ``His legs got a little longer and he started developing more speed.''
For a while, Gralon McFadden could keep up with his athletic kids. A former college football player himself, McFadden is a carpenter now, living in the Little Rock area. Ella McFadden, Darren's stepmother, has worked for the state for about three decades.
Gralon McFadden is as coy as anyone about his son's upcoming fortune, saying he doesn't know how much he'll benefit from it.
``He'll be the one rich,'' Gralon McFadden says.
Ella McFadden concurs, saying the family doesn't feel the need to live too lavishly.
``A trip here, a trip there,'' she concedes.
McFadden's sister might be moving in with him, but his parents don't seem interested in leaving Arkansas. Instead, they just hope he ends up with a team close by - Dallas, Kansas City or St. Louis.
Gaylon McFadden has been monitoring her brother's prospects, though, and she has a sense of what might happen on Draft Day.
``Oakland and the Jets - they're really looking at him,'' she says.
So that means New York or the Bay Area. Any preference?
``It'll be a change of pace for me regardless,'' she says. ``I'm not really a cold person, being from down south. I'm not used to the two feet of snow and the blizzard weather. Regardless of where it is, I'm going to be happy, just so I can make sure he's happy.''