LOS ANGELES — Christian McCaffrey could have went No. 8 in the 2017 NFL draft or he could have trickled back to the final pick in the first round, at least according to all the pundits.
That wide range of not knowing when you’re going to hear your name called can pile on the pressure. Anxiously waiting to find where his new home would be, the former Stanford Cardinal running back took a page out of the Philadelphia 76ers book when he said he just had to “trust the process.”
That trusting process didn’t require much time — McCaffrey went No. 8 to the Carolina Panthers, and the new home is undoubtedly cozy.
“As soon as I got (the phone call), man, it was definitely a dream come true. … I got really lucky I ended up in a place like Carolina,” he told FanRag Sports at the 15th annual Gatorade Player of the Year Awards.
McCaffrey is a versatile performer who can take carries out of the backfield or line up in the slot as an option in the passing game. He also can be a nightmare on special teams after a career in Palo Alto, Calif., in which he was a threat to score on any kick or punt return.
He was the typical do-it-all playmaker in college. In the NFL, he’s planning to absorb as much as he can through the first phase of his professional career.
“The best part about being a rookie for me, I’ve got so many great guys to learn from,” he said. “It’s kind of nice. In college, you don’t get comfortable, but you become the veteran; you get used to things. For me, it’s a completely new journey now and I get to learn from some unbelievable players — guys like Jonathan Stewart — and play with some unbelievable players.”
McCaffrey already appears to be a flawless fit, though it would be difficult finding a team that couldn’t use the versatile skill player. Just as he’s getting acclimated to Carolina and the offensive scheme, he’s meshing well with his new team despite the trials and tribulations of being a rookie.
It was evident when quarterback and former NFL MVP Cam Newton bombarded McCaffrey’s media session, showing the running back how the veterans do it.
It was somewhat a form of acceptance.
“That’s fun man, that’s who (Cam) is,” McCaffrey said with a laugh. “Guys who do stuff like that, it shows me that you think you’re a part of the family. It’d be worse if they never said anything to you.”
McCaffrey admitted that one thing he’s not looking forward to is the rookie dinner; but that’s OK, because as he put it, it’s a tradition “that every rookie goes through.”
Take that for teamwork.
“I’m just excited,” he said. “It’s such a great, great team and a great family. I’m really blessed to be a part of it.”