The unimaginable depth of Christian McCaffrey

Stanford sophomore running back was seemingly born for this

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LOS ANGELES — Yes, Christian McCaffrey is that guy. Deal with it.

Throw a surfboard in front of him. Put him on a pair of skis. Give him a basketball and an open lane. Who knows? Maybe put a bowling ball in his hands and a tightrope in front of him, maybe he bowls a 300 game while on a tightrope.

“He plays the piano, he can windmill dunk,” Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan said. “He can do whatever and he’s a great teammate. He’s a great guy to be around and it’s fun to witness everything he does.”

The Stanford sophomore is so good at everything that, yeah, he is the kind of guy that you hate because you spend your whole life becoming great at something — juggling, shark fighting, maybe cost accounting — and he’s the kind of guy who jumps in and just takes off.

“You hate guys like that, but when they’re on your team, you love them,” guard Joshua Garnett, who’s only the Outland Trophy winner, said. “I always tell him, ‘Don’t work on your pass set at all, because you might take my left guard spot.’”

McCaffrey was born to lead the nation in all-purpose yards, which he did this year with 3,496 yards on 410 plays (8.5 yards a play and 268.9 yards per game). That broke legendary NFL running back Barry Sanders’ 27-year-old record of 3,250 yards set in 1988.

This propelled McCaffrey to a runner-up status in the Heisman Trophy voting. It also makes him the headliner in Friday’s Rose Bowl between No. 5 Iowa (12-1) and No. 6 Stanford (11-2).

Born for this? Yes, born for this. The running back’s bio is straight out genetic engineering.

His dad, Ed, was a star receiver at Stanford and played in the NFL for 14 seasons. Ed met Christian’s mom, Lisa, at Stanford. Lisa was a star soccer player at Stanford from 1987-90. His brother, Max, plays wide receiver at Duke, where his grandfather, David Sime, ran track and finished as the silver medalist in the 100 meters in the 1960 Summer Olympics (Sime was the 1956 world record holder in the 100-yard dash).

McCaffrey has an aunt who played tennis at Virginia, an uncle who played football and wrestled at Duke, an aunt who played hoops at Georgetown and another uncle who played hoops at Duke and Vanderbilt.

All that and, from every word that came out of his coaches and teammates’ mouths this week, he’s universally revered.

“He’s so humble, and he’s always so quick to point out everything his teammates do for him,” offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said. “He talks about Kevin’s leadership and how it’s helped him. I mean, Christian has been unbelievable this year on and off the field.

“He’s so beyond his 19 years on this earth. You listen to him in press conferences and you watch his work ethic, you watch some of the things that he feels on the field that aren’t natural for anybody, but much less a 19-year-old true sophomore.”

Here are the list of topics McCaffrey was asked to comment on during his 15 or so minutes up on the stage during the Rose Bowl media crunch: student-athletes’ rights movement, social media, Iowa’s defense and about a picture of McCaffrey holding a Rwandan child during the mission he took to Rwanda in the summer of 2013.

That’s a clear touchpoint in his life. He referenced it after a conversation about whether or not student-athletes should even sign a letter of intent.

“My trip to Rwanda was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me,” McCaffrey said. “You land, and you see mud houses. You see a Third World country, something that I’d never seen before. I’d only seen it on TV, but being there is a definite different experience. When you arrive there, it’s a major culture shock. To meet the people and see how they have so little, yet they’re so happy, it’s one of the coolest things for me.

“And leaving there, coming back to America, where we have so much that we take for granted. It’s something that I just put in perspective that life is extremely precious. And it’s OK to take what we don’t have and make it a positive thing, because you look at people who have been affected by genocide, who are living in poverty, living off a cup of porridge a day who are so happy and filled with so much joy.

“I look at that and saw there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be happy, why we shouldn’t care for each other and love each other like they do there.”

All that and this.

“He’s a great rapper,” Garnett said. “You wouldn’t think so, but you have him freestyle against anybody. It’s going to be a long day for you.”

So, yeah, you can’t hate on this kid. Even if he takes over your job as . . . hmm, let’s say pediatrician . . . and crushes it after about 15 minutes, he’s too good to be true.

Except he is.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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