Christian McCaffrey is a famous football player for the Carolina Panthers in the National Football League. In 2017, he turned his Stanford education, athleticism, and football prowess into a big payday.
Being selected in the first round of the NFL draft undoubtedly remains one of the most memorable moments of his life. But after a fun Saturday hike with friends took a terrifying turn, McCaffery likely made another unforgettable memory.
Christian McCaffrey was hiking with a few friends in Colorado on March 3 when he saw an elderly man fall off a high rock.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 11, 2018
“We were going to go to lunch,” 21-year-old McCaffrey recalled in an article on the Carolina Panthers website. “And then just randomly we were like, ‘Let’s go hike the rock.'”
Castle Rock is a local landmark with a prominent flat-topped rock formation at its summit.
McCaffrey was accompanied by his brothers, Dylan and Max, and a couple of friends, Michael Mann and Brooke Pettet. As they turned the corner along the path, they saw something they’ll never forget.
A 72-year-old man, Dan Smoker, fell 20 feet from the top of Castle Rock to the rocks below. His fall left him with a number of injuries and clinging to life.
“I had never seen anything quite like that in my life as far as the trauma and the sound. We were in shock,” McCaffrey said.
The elderly man was accompanied only by his 13-year-old grandson, Eli, who was frantic and unsure of what to do. The boy called his father, who noted the urgency in his son’s voice.
McCaffrey called 911 and tried to comfort Eli while they waited for paramedics to arrive.
The group tended to the elderly man until paramedics arrived. Another onlooker named Chris kept Smoker’s head still, and Mann performed chest compressions when the senior stopped breathing.
“I called 9-1-1, and it felt like an eternity. It felt like we were up there waiting for four hours. But I looked back at my call log and it took 11 minutes before the paramedics came. Amazing what those guys did.”
The senior was rushed to the hospital where they discovered several serious injuries. He had a broken femur, a broken pelvis, internal bleeding, bleeding on the brain, nine fractured ribs, and a broken neck.
Remarkably, Smoker pulled through. His condition is steadily improving, and on March 7 he had his breathing tube removed.
The following day, McCaffrey, his brothers, and his mother visited Smoker and his family in the hospital.
Because of Michael Mann, @notoriousmax25, @run__cmc and a few other amazing folks, my 13yo son isn't telling a story about how he went on a hike with his grandpa and his grandpa died. He's telling a story of strength, hope, and human goodness. @AdamSchefter @espn
— Dan Smoker (@dsmokexu) March 6, 2018
Dan Smoker’s son, Dan Smoker Jr. was thankful for everything the McCaffreys and friends did for his family during the terrifying ordeal. On top of saving his father’s life, he appreciated the way they kept his son calm throughout.
“They really took Eli under their wing,” Smoker Jr. told 9News. “He had been through a very traumatic experience seeing his grandfather fall.”
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
McCaffrey has kept in touch with Eli since the traumatic event. The two have exchanged text messages, and could continue to do so into the foreseeable future.
“It could be a lifelong bond between us. He experienced a lot in those five minutes,” McCaffrey said.
The football star shudders to think at what the outcome might have been if he hadn’t arrived in the nick of time.
“I don’t know what would have happened … We were lucky to be at the right place at the right time,” he said.