Not all that long ago, Christian McCaffrey and his mom were nearly trampled by a roaming buffalo.
On an official recruiting visit to Boulder in high school, the Stanford do-just-about-everything sophomore was on the sideline for a Colorado game when Ralphie, the school’s mascot, got loose and charged in their direction. More specifically, Ralphie headed toward his mom, with people screaming at her to get out of the way. Like they all do in his family, she easily sidestepped the rush.
This weekend, McCaffrey tries to avoid more oncoming Buffaloes when he leads Stanford (7-1, 6-0 Pac-12) — ranked 11th in the first College Football Playoff poll, announced Tuesday — against Colorado (4-5, 1-4) in his return to the state where he rose to prominence. McCaffrey, son of former Denver Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey, played down the road at Valor Christian High, where he became the state record holder in all-purpose yards.
He’s hoping teammates will generously give him any extra tickets, because he has a lot of people interested in seeing him play at Folsom Field. His high school coach, Rod Sherman, plans to take the entire team to the game after their playoff contest the night before.
“It’s going to be a special week,” McCaffrey said.
Excuse Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre if he tries to spoil the homecoming party.
However, the way McCaffrey’s been playing, MacIntyre swears he’s seeing double.
Watching film the other day, MacIntyre spotted No. 5 — McCaffrey’s number — playing defense. His initial thought was this: In addition to playing tailback, returning punts and kicks and catching passes, McCaffrey is now a free safety, too?
Turns out, just a mistaken identity — there’s a No. 5 (Kodi Whitfield) on the roster who plays defense. Hey, maybe it’s something Stanford coach David Shaw might want to consider.
McCaffrey is that versatile. He leads the nation in all-purpose yards per game (244.3) and is eighth in yards rushing (1,060) as he emerges as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate. He may not be big — he’s listed as 6-foot and 201 pounds — but will explode right past a defense. He had a school-record 243 yards rushing against UCLA last month.
“He’s really talented, very fast, and very fearless,” MacIntyre said. “When I saw him play in high school, I couldn’t believe how fast he was. There wasn’t anybody close to him on the field.”
MacIntyre tried to lure him to Boulder, but figured McCaffrey would follow his father’s footsteps and head to Stanford. Ed McCaffrey played at Stanford before embarking on a 13-year NFL career that saw him capture three Super Bowl titles, including two with the Broncos. Christian McCaffrey’s mom, Lisa, was a soccer player at Stanford.
As for that speed? Easy to see where he inherited it: His grandfather, David Sime, captured a silver medal in the 100 meters at the 1960 Summer Games.
“Of course, we would have loved to have [Christian] here,” MacIntyre said. “That was kind of when I was coming in and it was the first year I was here and it (the recruiting process) was already kind of down the road a ways. The way recruiting has sped up so much — if you don’t really know them a bunch at least by the middle of their junior year, you’re already behind the eight ball in a way. Unless they are a late bloomer.”
And Christian McCaffrey was anything but that. He left Valor Christian with his name all over the records books, including 141 career TDs.
“There are a lot of things [special] about Christian. First, his character and his team-first mentality,” Sherman said. “His desire to win. And obviously just a very, very talented football player.
“In high school, you always saw Christian play his best in the biggest games.”
Some things don’t change. He’s had six straight 100-yard games, including that 243-yard, four-TD performance against UCLA.
“He’s a tough runner. He doesn’t tip-toe. He doesn’t hesitate,” MacIntyre said. “And then they move him out at receiver because he has excellent hands, so he’s kind of an all-purpose guy. I guess that’s why he leads the country in it.”