STANFORD, Calif. (KTVU) - The Heisman trophy might be the most prestigious individual honor in all of sports, yet Christian McCaffrey is the ultimate team guy.
“It’s definitely a huge honor to have my name mentioned,” said the Stanford sophomore, “but I’m not focused on all the individual accolades because one thing I’ve learned is those things don’t come unless your team is winning. So the most important thing is the team winning at the end of the day.”
His team DID keep winning, up to and including last Saturday’s Pac-12 championship triumph. In that game, McCaffrey ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown, and THREW for a touchdown. He amassed 461 total yards – blowing away his OWN school record. And in the process, he broke the all-time college football mark for all-purpose yards in a season – ironically held by the great Barry Sanders, whose son Barry J. Sanders is McCaffrey’s backfield mate at Stanford.
“I definitely thought about it a little, that’s a huge feat, definitely an exciting thing.”
The Heisman Trophy mission statement endorses “the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” Christian just might be the poster child. He’s a first-team Academic All-American. He’s also an accomplish pianist. Before enrolling at Stanford, he went on a summer mission to Rwanda, where he helped build schools in underprivileged areas.
“I was raised, if you ever like something, do it to the best of your ability,” says McCaffrey. “ I do think that’s the happiness is doing what you love, and when I find it something I think is cool I’m gonna do it to the best of my ability because if God’s given you talents it’s a shame to not use all of them.
Impressive values – instilled by an impressive family. Christian’s mother Lisa was a star soccer player at Stanford. His father Ed is one of the Cardinal’s all-time great wide receivers.
“My father is an unbelievable role model for me, on the field and off the field. To see what he’s done, the things he’s accomplished. He’s a guy who had to earn every single thing in his life. Always fought for what he’s earned, and I really look up to that and respect that.”
As for Christian’s viability for college football’s top honor? His numbers compare favorably with the other presumed favorite, Alabama’s Derrick Henry – except for touchdowns. Christian has – strangely and repeatedly - been tackled at the one yard line after breaking off long runs. Stanford uses short-yardage specialist Remound Wright from there.
“I wish the field was 99 yards, that’ be a lot more fun for me,” quipped McCaffrey.
Wright, meanwhile, is just doing his job.
“I never asked him to take it to the one [yard line], you know what I’m saying? I want him to punch it in just like everyone else wants him to score touchdowns. I just do my job when called upon.”
McCaffrey gets it, adding, “I think Remound is unbelievable at what he does. If I get down to the one, I have full confidence that we’re going to score and so just knowing that we get six points on the board is OK with me.”
Again, selfless. And humble. Despite one of the most impressive skill sets in college football, Christian refuses to tout his own abilities. Fortunately, his coach and teammates jump at the opportunity.
“He’s seeing holes I never see, making cuts I’ve never seen before,” said wide receiver Michael Rector. “It’s amazing. Playing alongside a Heisman candidate, I never thought I’d be able to do that. So it’s just amazing watching what he does on and off the field. Great person on top of being a great football player.”
“I get to be a fan just like everyone else when he’s on the field doing all the amazing stuff that he does. It’s really exciting,” added Wright.
Stanford head coach David Shaw has been McCaffrey’s biggest fan since day one. He gave one final endorsement following Saturday’s Pac-12 title game.
“To my left here is the best player in the nation. I don’t know that it’s even a question. There’s nobody in the nation doing what he’s doing. It’s not even a debate.”
The Heisman Trophy will be awarded Saturday afternoon in New York City.