The recruiting rankings had it right when they classified Christian McCaffrey of Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) as an all-purpose back.
Two years later, the player who might be the most versatile in all of college football provided an updated meaning to the term “all purpose.”
McCaffrey broke the NCAA record for all-purpose yards, held by Barry Sanders, with 3,496. He scored 13 touchdowns this season — eight rushing, four receiving and one on a kick return.
The combination of rushing, receiving, passing, kick and punt returns was on display during his prep career in Colorado. Rivals ranked him as the No. 1 player in the state, the No. 3 all-purpose back in the nation and the No. 77 player overall.
He also was a part of state championship teams every season. Valor Christian won its fifth consecutive state title — in three different classifications — when McCaffrey was a senior.
In his final Colorado high school game, McCaffrey scored four touchdowns to finish with Colorado state 11-man career records of 140 TDs and 848 points.
“I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone better,” coach Rod Sherman told The Denver Post after the game.
Before he headed to Stanford to follow in the footsteps of his mother and father, the former Denver Broncos receiver, McCaffrey played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January 2014.
While his highlight of the game didn’t go for a TD, he turned heads on this punt return by making “six guys miss in a 10-yard box,” as Army Bowl National Recruiting Director Erik Richards recalls.
“The thing that stands out is he’s on a stage where you’re playing against more talent than you would ever be playing against on a Saturday in college football with 35 five-stars and the rest four stars and then make six people miss in a 10-yard box that are those caliber players,” Richards said. “Touchdowns are nice, but what you are looking at is explosiveness in a small window. That’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in the Army Bowl with Percy Harvin, De’Anthony Thomas. That’s the ability that you’re looking for.”
Richards’ memories of McCaffrey’s talents extend beyond the Army Bowl when he was a senior. McCaffrey was named the MVP of the FBU Youth All-American Game the night before the Army Bowl in 2009 after scoring two touchdowns. A year later, he caught a long pass in the youth game.
“We saw this kind of ability three or four years before it happened at the high school level,” Richards said.