Four years removed, Christian McCaffrey isn’t mad he came in second in the 2015 Heisman vote. It’s not like his professional career has suffered.
But he can’t help but laugh when he thinks about one of the reasons he might have lost.
In an interview with The Athletic published Thursday, the Carolina Panthers’ star running back revealed that a voter once apologized for not giving him their vote. The reason why? The voter simply hadn’t seen enough of McCaffrey’s games — they were often asleep when Stanford’s games started.
“You just have to laugh it off,” McCaffrey said. “At that point, I knew that I didn’t win any of the awards in Atlanta. So I figured I wasn’t going to win [the Heisman]. When you’re young, and you have these big aspirations, and you want to win them, it’s great. But I’ve actually learned a lot since then. I’ve learned that you really can’t focus on what is out of your control. Winning games is a lot more fun than receiving awards.”
According to The Athletic, 87 percent of McCaffrey’s college snaps took place after 10:30 p.m. Eastern time. Current Panthers teammate Luke Kuechly said the timing meant that McCaffrey was basically relegated to mythical status, with news of his excellence traveling by word of mouth rather than first-hand viewing.
“It was like, ‘The legend of Christian McCaffrey,' ” Kuechly said, adding that he couldn’t stay up for Stanford’s games. “He was more of, like, a tall tale. He does everything! He catches it, he runs it, he returns it. Punt return, kickoff return. Like, crazy touches. And he did it in different ways, that was the part that was cool.
“That’s what it was, it was like, ‘The Myth of Christian McCaffrey,’ ” he said. “There was like, an aura around him. Because when you don’t get to watch guys, you don’t know what to think. But all you saw was [the stat rollout]: McCaffrey, McCaffrey, McCaffrey, touchdown. Big long run. Never comes off the field. Tons of touches. But you never got to watch him!”
Kuechly added that the Panthers would see some highlights on locker room television screens Sundays, and that’s what he remembers of McCaffrey’s legendary NCAA career.
Fellow Carolina running back Reggie Bonnafon, who played for Lousiville from 2014-17, was told in college to study McCaffrey’s play. He too struggled to catch McCaffrey live on TV, in part because of his own schedule.
“Guys like that should be on TV more,” Bonnafon told The Athletic. “He was the face of college football, and nobody saw him play.”
But it wasn’t just the TV schedule that led to McCaffrey’s relative anonymity. He also said that people around his own college campus either didn’t know who he was, or didn’t really care what he was doing.
McCaffrey once biked back to his dorm after a big performance, and when he got inside, multiple people “asked where [he] was.”
“People treat you just like they would treat anybody else — there’s positives and negatives to that — but [Stanford] is just a different place. You realize that half of the school is not from the United States and they’ve never watched American football. These are the same people who are future owners of Fortune 500 companies. And so for me, I had to take advantage of meeting them, and getting to know them, and seeing what they’re doing.”
“I think it humbles you. It reminds you who you are, and it makes you realize that life is a lot bigger than football sometimes,” McCaffrey added.
So when it comes to losing out on the Heisman, the 23-year-old has a similar outlook.
“It’s something that I wish I won, yeah, but … I’m not defined by winning or losing anything. I am who I am, and I play the game because I love it.”
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