Drew Brees' statline from Super Bowl XLIV was impressive, but it wasn't his face that made the covers of the newspapers the following Monday morning. Nope, it was Baylen Brees who was hoisted in the air following New Orleans' win, celebrating the victory in the arms of his father.
But before there was a Baylen Brees, there was a Christian McCaffrey.
Eleven years ago, Ed McCaffrey was on the Denver Broncos and celebrating a Super Bowl win. As cameras panned across the hugs of jubilant teammates, they closed in on Christian McCaffrey, a 2-year-old in a Broncos jersey, swimming in a sea of confetti. The image made a two-page spread in the February 8, 1999, edition of Sports Illustrated and created a national stir.
Christian McCaffrey didn't fit in his father's jersey then, but he's starting to fill the frame now. Earlier this month, the Colorado born and bred football player won the 'G Award' at the Football University camp in Miami.
"Christian has excellent understanding of the game of football," said Football University head coach Glenn Smith, who was formerly on the coaching staff of the Dallas Cowboys. "He runs with the correct body lean, he carries his pads at the right football level, he has great eye-hand coordination and has an ability to accelerate after the catch. He's a physically gifted football player."
And a well profiled one.
McCaffrey was back in Sports Illustrated last year as a 'Face in the Crowd,' after earning MVP honors at the Youth All-American Bowl. One day after watching top seniors play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, McCaffrey played both ways in the 7th grade all-star game against some of the top middle school talent in the nation.
In January, McCaffrey returned to San Antonio and to the Alamodome for the 8th-grade game.
He hasn't decided what high school he will attend in the fall.
A tagalong in training camp and the trainer's room, McCaffrey was always around the game, but father Ed never pressured him to play it. If pressure came from any direction, it was from teammates.
"I try to ignore (pressure) and instead of worrying about what he did, I worry about what I'm doing," Christian said. "There's always pressure, but I always let it go by me."
Side-stepping tacklers with the ease he does pressure, McCaffrey has produced on the field. Idolizing Barry Sanders, McCaffrey removed all comparisons to his father by choosing running back.
The results have been impressive.
After sorting through a year's worth of game tape, the elder McCaffrey estimates his son scored 63 touchdowns this past year, in addition to his 50 from the previous season. That's not the only way he differs from dad.
"I don't know that I had the confidence he has," Ed said. "I was probably not quite as confident at that age. I just love watching him. He definitely has an infectious love and enthusiasm."
Evidence of his contagious confidence is that McCaffrey's hometown team for 7th and 8th graders is riding a 95-game winning streak. While his team is winning games, McCaffrey's position choice is losing its battle with genetics. Only 13, McCaffrey is already 5-foot-10. It seems inevitable his frame will be better-suited for wide receiver - just like dad.
Even his father, who hauled in 565 passes and 55 touchdowns in his 13-year career, said that his son has "exceeded expectations."
While he may well grow into that old jersey worn by his 6-foot-5 father, McCaffrey's not expecting to wear one on Sunday's quite yet, despite his early success.
"He knows that's one in a million and a lot has to happen along the way," Ed said. "He enjoys the day now and plays to win today."
James Pallitto is a freelance journliast from the New York City metro area. He can be reached at [email protected]