Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey made his fair share of big plays during his rookie season in the NFL, but none of them will be as meaningful as what he did on Saturday.
McCaffrey was hiking in Castle Rock, Colo. with his brothers, Dylan and Max, as well as friends, Michael Mann and Brooke Pettet, when the group caught sight of something horrific.
Dan Smoker, Sr., a 72-year-old, was hiking with his 13-year-old grandson, Eli, when he tripped and fell 20 feet onto a rock.
“It felt like he was in the air for 10 seconds,” Christian McCaffrey told Max Henson from Panthers.com. “I had never seen anything quite like that in my life as far as the trauma and the sound. We were in shock.”
The crew ran over to Smoker, where McCaffrey called 9-1-1, Mann performed chest compressions when he stopped breathing and a fellow hiker stabilized his neck.
After a long 11 minutes, the paramedics arrived. Meanwhile, Eli called his father, Dan Smoker Jr., who was in San Diego celebrating his 15th wedding anniversary.
“There’s not a moment in my life that I felt more helpless than I did right then,” he told the Denver Post after Eli showed him the FaceTime image of his father laying on the rock.
The McCaffrey brothers and other hikers helped calm Eli, who was in a panic, and rightfully so.
“They were just letting him know that everyone there was doing everything they could to help his grandpa,” Dan Smoker Jr. said. “They helped from there, after the paramedics were there, to get down and get into the ambulance and getting him to the hospital where his grandpa was going to be. They really did a lot.”
Emergency personnel took the elder Smoker to a local hospital where doctors began treating his long list of injuries — a broken neck, a fractured femur, a broken pelvis and nine broken ribs along with internal bleeding — but determined he would ultimately be okay.
“It’s such a … I don’t know what you’d call it. Truly a blessing that we turned the corner at that exact moment and we could be there for him,” McCaffrey told Panthers.com.
The McCaffrey brothers along with their parents, Ed and Lisa, made sure to stop by and check in on Eli and his grandfather the following day.
Michael Mann, @run__cmc and @notoriousmax25 are great football players, but even better humans. Yesterday, they helped save my dads life after he fell off of Castle Rock. They comforted my son when he was alone. Then showed up at the hospital to check in. @AdamSchefter @espn pic.twitter.com/MVAdbr2gYV
— Dan Smoker (@dsmokexu) March 4, 2018
“One, they didn’t have to do anything,” Dan Smoker Jr. told The Denver Post. “I think everybody would like to believe that in adversity they would be able to jump in and act and do something. And they showed that they did. But beyond saving my dad’s life and ensuring he’s not paralyzed, that group as a whole, they sat beside us as a family to help us through this time.”
Christian McCaffrey has reportedly been texting with Eli and invited the teen to the McCaffreys’ home to hang out and toss a football.
Dan is lucky to have such a strong and courageous grandson. Eli handled the tough situation in the best way possible. Continuously praying for Dan and your family!
— Max McCaffrey (@notoriousmax25) March 6, 2018
The day could have turned out so much worse than what it was. Thankfully, “Colorado’s first football family” was in the right place at the right time.