By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
When Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey was drafted by the Panthers with the eighth overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, he became the third member of his family to wear an NFL uniform, and another in a long line of family members who have competed athletically at a high level.
In 2016, Christian’s older brother, Max (the oldest of four McCaffrey brothers), a wide receiver, signed as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Green Bay Packers out of Duke. He was the first in the family to follow in their father, wide receiver Ed McCaffrey’s, footsteps. Ed, who also attended Stanford, was a 1991 third-round NFL Draft pick by the New York Giants. He went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers and then finished his career with the Denver Broncos where he was selected to a Pro Bowl and won three Super Bowl Championships (XXIX, XXXII, XXXIII).
And that’s not where it ends. The boys’ mother, Lisa, was a standout soccer player at Stanford, and her father was sprinter Dave Sime, a silver medalist in the 1960 Olympic Games who had played baseball and football, and participated in track and field at Duke.
Both Christian and Max played multiple sports, including soccer, but it was football that they most strongly gravitated toward. Their two younger brothers are also following in what is now the family business – Dylan, a quarterback, accepted a scholarship offer from Michigan where he will start in the fall, and the youngest, Luke, also a quarterback, just completed his sophomore year in high school and has already received an offer to play at Michigan.
“We grew up watching our dad even before any of us played,” Max said. “Watching his games, going to his training camps. It’s always been a huge part of our life and our family, and we wanted to play because of our dad.”
And why not soccer like mom? I wanted to play soccer,” Max said. “But I wasn’t great by any means and soccer and football were during the same season. [Mom] is the one soccer player in the house. I’m sure she would have liked one of us to play. She’ll be the first to say she tried for a girl.”
“My mom cried when she found out I was a boy,” Christian laughed.
And soccer wasn’t exactly the best fit for Christian either.
“My soccer days, I was great when the net was small,” Christian said. “I love soccer. I’d score four goals a game. Then kids got bigger and we started losing. There’s no way to take your anger out. I was very competitive so I’d get really frustrated during games and especially during baseball. I’d strike out and throw my helmet. [My dad would] get on me pretty quick. I think part of the reason I’m the player I am today is because I watched him.”
Fortunately, Lisa held no grudges and was an equally big supporter of her boys’ football aspirations as Ed was.
“The biggest thing she brought to our family is competitiveness,” Christian said. “It’s one of the reasons we have such success is we hate losing. When you have a mom who has such unbelievably competitive traits but is so loving, she knows how to win and really raised us correctly. She’s the backbone.”
But it was Ed that they watched and relied upon for specific advice and input about their chosen sport.
“Even now I go train with my dad during the offseason because he still has the knowledge of the game,” Max said. “I still use him as my coach today and I appreciate the time he’s taken with me. [His NFL experience] helps with guidance. The game and the business side is always changing. But he’s had the experience to give us.”
The boys, who were always very competitive with each other, are also extremely close and were all together at the family’s home on Draft day.
“It’s been a dream of ours since we were little (to go to the NFL),” Max said. “We’re competitive as brothers but we all want to see each other succeed.”
Draft Day 2017 was a great day for the McCaffreys and a dream come true for Christian.
“I wrote my goals down as a kid,” McCaffrey recalled. “One was to win the Heisman, which was a bummer (Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson took the trophy), one was to be a first-round Draft pick. [Hearing my name called] was unbelievably special. To see a dream come true was one of the best days of my life. It was the start of my next chapter.”
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.