Gridiron Greats PRO FOO TBA L L’ S BES T PL AY ERS
by Greg Bach
Gridiron Greats PRO FOO TBA L L’ S BES T PL AY ERS
Aaron Rodgers Christian McCaffrey Lamar Jackson Patrick Mahomes
Aaron Donald Alvin Kamara Antonio Brown DrewBrees
Odell Beckham Jr Rob Gronkowski RussellWilson
J.J. Watt Julio Jones
Todd Gurley Von Miller
Gridiron Greats PRO FOO TBA L L’ S BES T PL AY ERS
by Greg Bach
MASON CREST MIAMI
Mason Crest PO Box 221876 Hollywood, FL 33022 (866) MCP-BOOK (toll-free) www.masoncrest.com
Copyright © 2023 by Mason Crest, an imprint of National Highlights, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the publisher. First printing 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ISBN (hardback) 978-1-4222-4608-5
ISBN (series) 978-1-4222-4603-0 ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4222-7208-4 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Bach, Greg, author. Title: Christian McCaffrey / Greg Bach. Description: Hollywood, Florida : Mason Crest, 2023. | Series: Gridiron greats : pro football’s best players | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2020010897 | ISBN 9781422246085 (hardback) | ISBN 9781422272084 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: McCaffrey, Christian, 1996–Juvenile literature. | Football players–United States–Biography–Juvenile literature. Classification: LCC GV939.M2979 B34 2021 | DDC 796.332092–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020010897 Developed and Produced by National Highlights, Inc. Editor: Andrew Luke Production: Crafted Content, LLC
Further Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Internet Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 Photo Credits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 Educational Video Links & Author Biography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Chapter 1: Greatest Moments . . . . 7 Chapter 2: The Road to the Top . . . . 21 Chapter 3: On the Field . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Chapter 4: Words Count . . . . . . . . . 49 Chapter 5: Off the Field . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Series Glossary of Key Terms . . . . . 72
KEY ICONS TO LOOK FOR
Words to Understand: These words with their easy-to-understand definitions will increase the readers’ understanding of the text while building vocabulary skills.
Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news coverage, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments, and much more! Text-Dependent Questions: These questions send the reader back to the text for more careful attention to the evidence presented there.
Research Projects: Readers are pointed toward areas of further inquiry connected to each chapter. Suggestions are provided for projects that encourage deeper research and analysis.
Series Glossary of Key Terms: This back-of-the book glossary contains terminology used throughout this series. Words found here increase the reader’s ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field.
WORDS TO UNDERSTAND juke – make a move to mislead an opponent; dodge; swerve preeminent – surpassing all others; distinguished scamper – run with quick, light steps stout – strong; solid
Chapter 1 GREATEST MOMENTS
ELUSIVE, ENTERTAINING, AND EXCELLENT Ever since entering the National Football League (NFL) in 2017, after some spectacular seasons at Stanford University, ChristianMcCaffrey has become one of themost versatile, dynamic, and downright fun players to watch in the game today. Withmore moves than a Broadway dancer—he jukes , sidesteps, hurdles, spins around, bounces off, outruns, and even, at times, runs over defenders—he has produced dazzling numbers rarely ever seen at the running back position. McCaffrey has trampled the NFL record books in the process and has inserted himself into the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) chatter for years to come. A threat to strike no matter where he lines up—in the backfield, in the slot, or out wide—McCaffrey closed out his third NFL season in 2019 in a blaze of big-time numbers. With 1,387 rushing yards and 1,005 receiving yards, he became just the third player in NFL history to reach the 1,000-yard mark in those two categories in the same
season, joining the great Roger Craig (1985) and Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (1999). Those 2,392 yards from scrimmage were also the third most in NFL history, jumping in front of luminaries such as Tiki Barber, LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders, and Marcus Allen, among other greats. On his trek into the record books, McCaffrey produced a remarkable 15-catch day against Indianapolis in Week 16, setting a franchise record for most catches by a Carolina Panthers player in a game. Standing five feet eleven inches, with 205 pounds on his chiseled frame, he has the courage and toughness for gaining the hard, punishing yards running inside that are needed to keep the first down chains moving, and he possesses the vision and quickness for scampering outside, turning the corner, and picking up big chunks of yardage. In addition, he is the league’s premier pass-catching running back, as his 116 grabs in 2019 and 107 receptions in 2018 earned him a special spot in the NFL record books as the first running back in league history to have multiple 100-catch seasons. Amazingly, he’s only twenty-six years old. Unfortunately, his five-year NFL career has been hampered by injuries in recent seasons. McCaffrey missed 13 games in 2020 and 10 more in 2021. During the 2019 season he was on the field for an astounding 95 percent of his team’s offensive plays, and 91 percent the season before—and he usually ends up delivering a positive play that leaves defenders grasping at air and muttering to themselves about how he squirmed away. In 2019 alone he led the league in yards from scrimmage, all-purpose yards, and total touches. In addition, his 19 touchdowns were tied for tops in the league with Green Bay’s Aaron Jones. A 2020 Pro Bowl selection, McCaffrey has forced defensive coordinators around the league to tinker with all sorts of new schemes and strategies aimed at trying to contain him while emerging as one of the NFL’s ultimate offensive weapons at running back, an all-purpose, every-down, yardage-hoarding superstar. 8 Christian McCaffrey
M c C affrey’s Greatest Career Moments
HERE IS A LIST OF SOME OF THE CAREER FIRSTS AND GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS OF CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY DURING HIS TIME IN THE NFL TO DATE
JOINS CRAIG AND FAULK IN NFL RECORD BOOKS McCaffrey was the NFL’s preeminent dual threat running back during the 2019 season, so it was no surprise that he squeezed into the NFL record books on the final week of the regular season. When he snared a 17-yard pass from quarterback Kyle Allen in the third quarter against NewOrleans, he joined ultra exclusive company by becoming just the third running back in NFL history to reach the 1,000-yard mark in both rushing and receiving yards in the same season. Taking the field in Week 17 at home, with his proud parents in the stands, McCaffrey needed 67 receiving yards to join the exclusive company of San Francisco 49ers great Roger Craig and Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk as the only players
todoubledipon1,000 yards. He finished the day, a 42–10 loss to the Saints, with seven catches for 72 yards. Six weeks ear l ier, he had reached the 1,000-yard rushing p l a t eau a ga i n s t Atlanta. His amazing season totals—1,387 rushing yards and 1,005 receiving yards— are thirdmost all time.
McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history to reach the 1,000-yard mark in rushing and receiving in the same season in 2019.
FABULOUS FIFTEEN McCaffrey claimed yet another Carolina franchise record when he caught all 15 passes thrown his way for 119 yards against Indianapolis duringWeek 16 of the 2019 season. His route-running andpass-catching clinic allowed himto better the Panthers’ previous record of 14 catches in a game by wide receiver Steve Smith back in 2005 against Chicago. On that day, Smith had 20 passes thrown his way and he recorded 169 yards. McCaffrey’s 15 receptions in a game are the second-most by a running back inNFL history. Clark Gaines of the New York Jets owns the record, thanks to his 17-catch performance for 160 yards in a loss to San Francisco during the 1980 season. Other running backs who have also reached
the 15-catch mark in a single game during the regular season are Austin Ekeler of the Chargers andNew Orleans’ AlvinKamara, while New England’s James White and the Saints’ Darren Sproles did so during playoff games.
McCaffrey had 15 receptions against India napolis during Week 16 of the 2019 season, a Carolina franchise record that was the only bright spot in a bad road loss.
SURPASSES 100 RECEIVING YARDS IN FIRST PLAYOFF GAME Apparently, McCaffrey shrugs off playoff pressure as easily as would-be tacklers in open spaces. A noted big-game performer in college, he did much of the same in the first (and so far only) playoff game of his NFL career. In a 31–26 loss at New Orleans during Wild Card Weekend in the first week of January 2018, he corralled six passes for 101 yards and a huge late touchdown that kept the Panthers in the game. The highlight of his day, which embodied his game-changing explosiveness, was the touchdown he scored, a magnificent 56-yard catch and dash: he lined up behind quarterback Cam Newton; looped out of the backfield on the snap; faked stepping outside and instead cut inside to
createspace fromNew Orleans linebacker Craig Robertson, who had the impossible assignment of trying to cover him; caught Newton’s toss as his cleats hit midfield; and outran a group of Saints defenders to the end zone.
McCaffrey had 101 receiving yards in his first playoff appearance in a 2017 loss at New Orleans.
SCORES FIRST NFL TOUCHDOWN IN MOTOR CITY McCaffrey has scored a bundle of touchdowns in countless ways throughout his short NFL career. His first touchdown came via a perfectly executed six-yard shovel pass fromCam Newton that he took and ran into the end zone untouched at Ford Field in Detroit while defenders grabbed nothing but air on the play. With McCaffrey lining up just outside the right tackle, Newton took the snap and ran to his left, but instead of pitching the ball on the option to Jonathan Stewart, he flicked the ball toMcCaffrey, who sliced through the heart of the Detroit defense and into the end zone. The early second quarter score pulled the Panthers evenwith the Lions 10–10 in a game theywouldwin 27–24 to raise their record to
4–1. The scoring play was one of fivepasses McCaffreywould grab that afternoonamong seven targets for 31 yards. He would go on to catch four more touchdown passes during his rookie season and a l so score a pair of rushing touchdowns.
McCaffrey scores his first career touchdown against the Detroit Lions in 2017.
SETS FRANCHISE RECORD WITH 237 SCRIMMAGE YARDS McCaffrey delivered a giant day of playmaking against a sturdy Jacksonville Jaguars defense in an early October game during the 2019 season, generating a franchise record 237 scrimmage yards for a single game. His busy day featured 19 carries for awalloping 176 yards and a couple of touchdowns, whichwasmade evenmore impressive by the fact that Jacksonville hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in the first four games of the season, shutting down the likes of Derrick Henry and Phillip Lindsay. McCaffrey was a menace running pass routes too, as he snatched six receptions (on eight targets) for 61 yards and another touchdown. His day of dominance began with a 5-yard rushing touchdown in the first
quarter; he caught an 18-yardpass fromKyle Allen to score again later in the quarter; and 59 seconds into the third quarter he scampered 84 yards for his third score of the day in Carolina’s 34–27 victory.
McCaffrey torched Jacksonville both running and receiving during a 2019 game, setting a Carolina franchise record with 237 scrimmage yards.
SETS RECEPTIONS RECORD FOR RUNNING BACKS Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season provided a scary peek at what McCaffrey had in store for opponents all year long, ashe caught 10passes (on11 targets) for 81yards ina loss to theLos AngelesRams. Itmarkedthebeginningofamagnificentpass-catchingspree,wherehefinished with116catches for theseason, themostever inNFLhistory forarunningback. That staggering production topped the previous record of 107 catches that he had set in his second year in the league—just the seasonbefore. McCaffrey caught at least twopasses during each game of the 2019 season, andhehad severalmonster outingswherehe shreddeddefenses. Check out thesenumbers: hehadawhopping15-catch, 119-yardperformanceagainst Indianapolis;
11catchesfor121yards againstAtlanta; and10 catches for 86 yards against Houston.
McCaffrey makes a diving catch against Houston, one of the NFL record 116 receptions he had during the 2019 season.
NAMED TO PRO BOWL FOR 2019 SEASON WhileMcCaffrey’s thirdNFL seasondidnot include amuch-wanted trip to the playoffs—the Panthers won just five games—he did earn the chance to suit up for one more game by being named to his first Pro Bowl. The annual game, played in late January at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, pits the best players from the National Football Conference (NFC) against those from the American Football Conference (AFC). Players are chosen for the game based on voting by the fans, players, and coaches. Each of the three groups’ vote counts one-third toward determining the 44 players who take the field for each squad. In the fanvoting, McCaffrey received thefifth-most votes, behindBaltimorequarterback Lamar
Jackson , Seat t l e quarterback Russell Wilson, Kansas City quarterback Patrick M a h o m e s , a n d running back Dalvin Cook of the Minne sota Vikings. Despite producing terri f ic numbers in 2018 as well, McCaffrey was snubbed in the Pro Bowl voting.
McCaffrey was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2020, thanks to his record-setting 2019 season.
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