Running back Darren McFadden is the first Arkansas player invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York, but when he arrives at the Downtown Athletic Club tonight, he isn't expecting to pick up the award.
The sophomore whose competition is two senior quarterbacks, Ohio State's Troy Smith and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, is a Smith supporter.
"Troy is a great player, so I feel like he deserves it,'' McFadden said. "I'm going to cheer for him.''
Smith, the 22-year-old with the easy smile and humble demeanor, is favored to win the 72nd Heisman Trophy, presented to the nation's most outstanding college football player. On Thursday, Smith walked away with two trophies, the Davey O'Brien national quarterback and Walter Camp player of the year awards.
On Jan. 8, he'll lead the No. 1 Buckeyes against No. 2 Florida in the BCS national championship game.
Despite the accolades and accomplishments, a conversation with Smith quickly turns to the support group around him.
"Without my teammates, none of this would be possible,'' Smith said Thursday night at the Home Depot College Football Awards show in Lake Buena Vista.
Smith would be the seventh OSU Heisman winner.
"I think it's a tremendous honor and I think it's also a tremendous reflection on the team that I played on, the coaches that I played for, the program that I run out on the field and represent,'' he said. "If I get the chance to hoist that trophy and have it come back to the Ohio State University, it'll be great talk for the guys around here, just to make this a better place.''
OSU winners include Eddie George and two-time recipient Archie Griffin. Smith has had many conversations with the former running backs, none about the Heisman.
"When I talk to both of those guys, it's nowhere near along the lines of the Heisman,'' he said. "It's always about team, team, team. ... That's a funny thing about it because you'd think they'd try to give me advice on that, but it's always been about team. Let's worry about the team and everything else will take care of itself. And I bought into that and I have a total understanding that's what football is all about.''
McFadden, who set an Arkansas record for rushing yards this season, said he never expected to be in New York tonight.
"It's very surprising because I came into the Heisman campaign late in the season,'' he said. "For me to be there, with two quarterbacks and I'm the only running back, it's a great feeling for me.''
Times staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report. Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Award show: 8 tonight, ESPN.
Finalists: Darren McFadden, sophomore running back, Arkansas; Brady Quinn, senior quarterback, Notre Dame; Troy Smith, senior quarterback, Ohio State.