Sports

McCaffrey doing a good job following in father's footsteps

 

It's no surprise to Valor Christian High head football coach Rod Sherman that Stanford freshman running back Christian McCaffrey has made a seamless transition to the college game.

In high school, the Denver, Colo., native did everything but line the field setting state records for career points (848), touchdowns (141), all-purpose yards (8,845) and single-season all-purpose yards (3,032).

"He left a legacy at Valor on how to prepare for a game," Sherman said. "He always brought his best effort in practice and he cared so much about his teammates. He was always a very humble player and didn't need the spotlight."

McCaffrey, whose father, Ed, and mother, Lisa, met at Stanford and starred in football and soccer, respectively, also ranked second in Colorado history for career touchdown receptions (47), seventh for single-season touchdowns (46), and eighth for career punt returns for touchdowns (4). He led his team to four state titles and earned 12 letters in football, basketball and track and field, helping his Valor set a state record in the 4A 4x200 relay.

McCaffrey lined up at running back and wide receiver. He also punted, returned kicks and played defensive back, returning an interception for a touchdown last year in the state semifinal game.

"There was so much to marvel about," said Sherman. "He's just electrifying with the ball in his hands. He's like lightning in a bottle."

At Stanford, McCaffrey has been used as a runner, receiver, returner and coverage man on special teams. Entering Saturday's game (4:30 p.m., FOX) at fifth-ranked Oregon (4-1, 7-1), he has rushed 12 times for 83 yards; caught nine passes for 176 yards, including a 42-yard score in last Saturday's 38-14 win over visiting Oregon State; returned four punts for 70 yards; had two kickoff returns for 38 yards and has made five tackles, two solo.

Stanford heads to Eugene with a 3-2 Pac-12 mark (5-3 overall) and needs a victory top keep its possible conference title hopes alive. McCaffrey might be one of the guys to help get that done.

"It was a difficult adjustment at first," McCaffrey said of the college game. "But the one thing I love about this place is how all our guys rally around each other and help each other out. I'm having a great time now."

Stanford head coach David Shaw admits McCaffrey has exceeded early expectations.

"I think he's ahead of where we thought he was going to be," said Shaw. "I think to a man, everyone on our staff believes he's going to be a great college football player. We thought maybe it was going to take him a while to get there. He's accelerated our thinking to the point that every game plan we're going to give him a little bit more."

While McCaffrey's father played professionally for 13 seasons with the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos and has three Super Bowl rings, he has never interfered with any of his four sons. Older brother Max is a junior wide receiver at Duke, and third brother Dylan is a sophomore at Valor and the team's starting quarterback. Youngest brother Luke attends middle school.

"He went to every single game," McCaffrey said of his father. "I was so lucky to have incredible high school coaches. If he ever saw anything, he'd give me a little tip here and there. One thing I really appreciated that he did was letting me do my thing and let me grow up how he did without the pressure of being my dad."

That went for choosing a college, as well.

"I looked around," said McCaffrey, Colorado's two-time player of the year. "I wanted to make the decision on my own. I found out very quickly that this was the place I wanted to be."

Naturally, his parents were thrilled.

"I could tell they were bias," he said. "If you get a scholarship offer to attend Stanford, it's hard to turn down. I visited a couple of other places, but I pretty much fell in love with this place the first time I stepped on campus and talked to some of the players and coaches."

McCaffrey remembers little about his father's NFL career. A member of the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame, Ed graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's degree in organizational behavior. A third-round draft pick of the Giants in 1991, he caught 565 passes for 7,422 yards and 55 touchdowns. He's now a radio analyst for Denver games and owns several small companies, even boasting his own brand of mustard and horseradish sauce.

"I have glimpses of memories of calling his name on the field, even though he couldn't hear me," said McCaffrey. "We have a couple pictures of me when I was real little. I had a big curly afro after they (Broncos) won Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami. There was confetti all over the place and the picture ended up being in Sports Illustrated."

Asked to name the best athlete in his family, McCaffrey said, "I'm going to have to say my mom. Otherwise, when I come home, I won't have home-cooked meals."

While his father stands 6-foot-5 and had great agility and leaping ability, Christian is 6-0, 200 pounds, but has better speed and quickness. He also relies on vision and footwork to make the most of every opportunity, and enjoys breaking down film to find ways to improve.

"He's fast, explosive, runs hard, breaks tackles and makes guys miss," said Shaw. "Every time he touches the ball, the whole sideline starts to get excited because something special could happen."

As for McCaffrey's amazing high school statistics, Sherman said they are no fluke. Last year, he rushed for 1,858 yards and 27 touchdowns, despite limited carries in several lopsided wins.

"He's just a great kid and a great competitor," Sherman said. "He did whatever we asked him to do and made plays in so many spots. He was very unselfish and ready for any opportunity given to him. He can put his head down and get the tough yards. He absolutely can be an every down back."

At Stanford, McCaffrey is just happy to be a contributor.

"I see myself wherever they put me," he said. "Whether I can make something happen on special teams being a gunner, a punt returner, a running back or a slot receiver, I'm just happy to play for this team."

(Mark Soltau writes for Stanford Athletics/gostanford.com)

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