By NEIL H. DEVLIN
Growing up McCaffrey may sound like one of the latest reality shows on cable television, but in Colorado it (ital)is(end ital) reality.
And it appears to be a pretty sweet gig. In no particular order, displaying high character, being strong in academics and starring in football are the obvious aspects, accompanied by penchants toward perseverance, diligence, hard work and humility.
The McCaffrey Football Factory, which is based in Castle Pines, Colo., and operates out of Valor Christian High School in nearby Highlands Ranch, performs under CEOs and parents Ed and Lisa McCaffrey. Ed was a wide receiver for three NFL teams, notably the Denver Broncos, and was a three-time Super Bowl winner after being an All-American at Stanford. Lisa was a soccer whiz who once made Faces in the Crowd in Sports Illustrated … and as the only female in the clan with a husband and four sons, is entitled to her respect.
Of the four sons, the oldest, Max, won three titles at Valor Christian, starred at Duke and is a free agent as a wide receiver in the NFL.
Christian, a running back, won four championships at Valor and nearly – should have? – won the Heisman Trophy a year ago at Stanford.
Dylan, Valor’s current QB, has been on three Valor teams to make championship-game appearances – and won two titles — and will be going for a third on Saturday, when the Eagles will meet Pomona, a rematch of the programs in last year’s Class 5A championship, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. He was vital to last weekend’s semifinals victory over Colorado’s ever-present Cherry Creek despite modest stats of 99 yards passing and 27 rushing, but it was that kind of game, won by the Eagles by 10-7 on a last-second field goal.
And don’t forget about the fourth Mac brother, sophomore Luke, everything from a back to a returner for the Eagles and who has begun his turn at chalking up multiple titles.
So there has been a stack of Big Macs and this has nothing to do with fast food — Max-Mac, C-Mac, D-Mac and Luke-Mac.
Each has been uniform as well as unique and D-Mac thinks he knows why.
Commenting while saying he was “still on edge” about beating Cherry Creek – the two programs have faced off six times in three seasons — and helping the Eagles to their eighth consecutive title game, Dylan McCaffrey said “a lot of it has come from the work ethic our parents have taught us and making sure we’re passionate about something, not doing anything halfway. And it has helped a lot.”
A self-proclaimed “rock-solid” pledge to Michigan, D-Mac, 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, has piled up 2,642 yards passing for 29 TDs and rushed for 507 yards and nine more TDs in 2016, and is gaining consideration daily as probably the state’s best quarterback in decades. And in an age when football players of all levels seem to celebrate and chest-thump after every play, his modesty remains refreshing. The McCaffreys are celebrated locally, yes, but also can be targets of the envious.
“A little bit of it, I think, is the jealousy is pointed at the school itself,” D-Mac said. “If there is anything, the state of Colorado has been extremely supportive and it has been awesome to see. In rivalries, there are some things said, but they’ve been rooting for Christian and rooting for Max. Overall, after high school, it turns out all right.”
Ed McCaffrey refuses to take any credit. “It’s all Lisa,” he said Saturday on the storied turf at Stutler Bowl in Greenwood Village. Lisa couldn’t respond. She was out of state at one of Christian’s games, a regular occurrence in recent years for one or both parents.
Again, Dylan McCaffrey reiterated, “it’s about being passionate about something. If we joined a play, our parents would be in the front row.”
Ed McCaffrey said being a football dad is a different nervousness for him. As a high-end wide receiver and regular target of John Elway’s passes, it was one thing to go across the middle and catch a ball against the violence of NFL linebackers and safeties. Sitting in the stands and watching one of his boys play may be more challenging, he said, notably when the game clock is ticking. Afterward, he added, it’s easier to reflect.
It’s the classic part of the optimum parent-athlete relationship. Kids like the four Mac brothers and all they bring with them don’t happen by accident and the parents who know how to handle themselves don’t suddenly arise.
Dylan McCaffrey, having watched mom and dad in action for him and his brothers and never wavering, is simply thankful for both.
“They’re great,” he said. “They don’t step too much in the way unless we ask them to and do a great job of letting us learn things on our own.”
(Neil Devlin is the premier high school writer and editor in Colorado, and one of the best prep reporters in the country. He has covered all high school sports and state championships for The Denver Post for the past 37 interrupted years. He became the most prominent and popular, and longest-haired and longest-tenured, prep sports editor in Colorado history because he is an exceptional writer and an award-winning reporter, and he cares deeply about the students and the athletes. Devlin is the father of two — a Special Olympian, and a deputy district attorney, and he’s a dutiful husband. He was raised in the Philadelphia area and still loves his Philly steaks and pro teams — way too much. Neil recently departed The Post and joined woodypaige.com, and is contributing opinion pieces, polls and features on state and national high school sports regularly.)