Darren McFadden, running back for the Dallas Cowboys and former standout for the Razorbacks, will be the featured speaker at the Times Record’s 2017 Best of River Valley Preps banquet.

The Heisman finalist and fourth overall pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2008 NFL Draft will help honor the area’s top athletes and coaches at the June 1 event at the Fort Smith Convention Center. Doors will open at 6 p.m. for the 6:30 dinner.

The event will honor more than 300 athletes and coaches across 17 sports in the seven-county region of Sebastian, Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Scott, LeFlore and Sequoyah counties.

“We wanted to bring these great student-athletes a speaker with star power who has first-hand knowledge of the work, dedication and perseverance that it takes to rise to the top, even while overcoming various life challenges,” said Crystal Costa, publisher of the Times Record. “McFadden certainly fits the bill.”

This Dallas Cowboy carries a legacy as one of the top athletes in Arkansas history. In a recent fan poll by seccountry.com, McFadden, 29, was chosen by fans as the greatest Arkansas athlete in school history.

While fans can sometimes be fickle, his numbers back up the fondness fans continue to have of him.

A star at Oak Grove High School in central Arkansas, McFadden started with a bang in his freshman year at Arkansas. He ran for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. By the end of his first year, he was already establishing records in the SEC as one of only seven players to ever run more than 1,000 yards as a freshman. He was named SEC Freshman of the Year.

He continued to dazzle fans and coaches throughout his college career. He claims the honor for the two largest single-season rushing performances in Razorback history for his sophomore and junior years. With a record of 785 carries and 22 100-yard games, he is the most decorated football star in Hog history.

For his college career, he claims two second-place finishes for the Heisman, two SEC Offensive Player of the Year awards, two first-team All-American honors and three All-SEC honors, and only Hershel Walker tops his numbers in rushing.

“We are thrilled to have landed such a well-known and beloved athlete. Of course, it only adds to the appeal that he has such strong Arkansas roots,” said Brian Sanderford, sports editor. “Even though his career with the Cowboys is still developing, he has this enormous legacy throughout Arkansas.”

“We are just so pleased to bring him home for this very special night,” Costa said.

McFadden is in his ninth season as an NFL running back. The Cowboys recently re-signed him to a one-year contract. He had other interest but opted to stay with the Cowboys.

While injuries have limited some of his star power, McFadden has more than 28 touchdowns, 5,400 rushing yards and 2,100 receiving yards.

During the Best of River Valley Preps event, McFadden will share his experiences and insights, participate in a moderated Q&A with some audience questions, and take photos with top winners and VIPs.

For more information or tickets to the event, go to www.swtimes.com/preps or call (479) 785-7700.