How can McCaffrey win the Heisman? His mom has an idea

The Heisman discussion has transitioned from a low, intermittent whisper to a strong, steady hum as college football moves into the heady month of November. Statements need to be made, conferences need to be won and statistics need to be more impressive than ever.

Stanford’s Heisman hopeful, sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey, has been garnering national attention for his athletic prowess and the prodigious statistics he’s produced this season. He’s been a consistent presence on the Heisman Top 5 lists of FOX Sports college football experts Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman, and it doesn’t hurt McCaffrey’s case that two of the most popular Heisman front-runners — LSU’s Leonard Fournette and TCU’s Trevone Boykin — both struggled mightily last weekend in losses.

We’ll get to see more from McCaffrey as the Cardinal take on Oregon this weekend (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on FOX), but his strength as a candidate lies in his all-purpose yardage: He leads the nation with 241.6 yards per game, nearly 26 yards more than the next-closest player (Tyler Ervin from San Jose State, with 216).

McCaffrey rushed for 243 yards on 25 carries (9.7 yards/carry) against UCLA, breaking Toby Gerhart’s Stanford single-game record of 223 against Oregon in 2009. He also scored four touchdowns in that game, tying a Stanford single-game record reached only eight times before. His 369 all-purpose yards against the Bruins were the most by any FBS player in 2015. In fact, McCaffrey is the only player in the country to record two of the top five all-purpose performances on the season.

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But his weakness lies in his lack of bling: touchdowns, of which he has only six, and self-promotion, something that Stanford has been criticized for in the past.

And then there is Stanford itself and the statement it needs to make against its final three opponents: Oregon, Cal and, most importantly, Notre Dame. Plus, the Cardinal would need to turn in a solid performance in the Pac-12 championship game, should theyl clinch the North this weekend against the Ducks.

So how does Christian McCaffrey win the Heisman? Shannon Sharpe, former NFL player, current analyst and longtime friend of the McCaffrey family, had an idea.

After speaking with McCaffrey’s mother, Lisa, it is clear that both she and her husband, former Stanford All-America Ed McCaffrey, agree with Sharpe: Stanford continuing to win will be the key.

“Stanford needs to win, which is nice because it’s a team thing, too,” Lisa McCaffrey said in an interview with The Sports Fan Journal. “And if he does by any small chance win, he better bring his O-line something incredible — something pretty great. That’s all I can say, because he’s nothing without them. Even Stanford’s throwing game has to be on in order for him to run, so there’s a lot of things that have to go into it.”

But it’s really a chicken-and-egg scenario, because Stanford’s success as a team is directly linked to and dependent on McCaffrey’s performance. The more yards he puts up, the more games Stanford wins, both of which impact his Heisman campaign. In other words, the truth will take care of itself.

“What he is doing is special, and to me the best part about him is that all he cares about is the next play,” coach David Shaw said in a news conference Tuesday. “He doesn’t care how many touchdowns, how many yards — it doesn’t matter. He’s asking, ‘What’s the next play, and what do I need to do for this football team?’ That’s another driving force behind our team’s success.”

That just leaves the packaging, an area where Stanford has already made headway with the launch of the www.WildCaff.com site this week. The coaches are on board with the new campaign.

“[McCaffrey] has played into the Heisman conversation, which is great,” said Shaw. “And we want to support him. It won’t be a distraction to our football team. It’s a really good sidebar to what we have going as an entire team. And he has deserved it.”

His teammates are on board as well.

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“Give him the Heisman … just give him the Heisman,” said wide receiver Michael Rector when asked about his thoughts on the McCaffrey campaign.

His team’s support means the world to McCaffrey, because, as his mom recalled, being a part of a team is all he ever wanted.

“He’s watched his dad play in the NFL, and I don’t think he really cares about the hype. I think he really, really cares about playing well, and he loves being a part of a team. He loves when it all gels,” said Lisa McCaffrey. “When somebody else scores, he couldn’t be happier. He just likes to win and be a part of something bigger than himself. That’s what he loves about football. Obviously, he loves to carry the ball and do what he can, but the team is what it’s all about.”

The other speed bump McCaffrey may encounter is similar to what happened against Washington State — teams heaping their defensive coverage on the sophomore standout to stymie Stanford’s run game. Adjustments from Shaw and Co. will be the key to combat that and keep the chains moving. One solution: McCaffrey could always throw another touchdown pass, like the 28-yarder he tossed to tight end Austin Hooper in Stanford’s 42-10 victory over Colorado last weekend. Nobody in Stanford’s camp was surprised at the utility player’s QB skills — except his mother.

“I was shocked because I’ve seen him throw before. He has a really strong arm, but I didn’t think he could hit the broad side of a barn. He’s not the most accurate thrower,” said Lisa McCaffrey. “I was joking with him because his younger brothers are both quarterbacks, and I asked him, ‘Did Dylan teach you how to throw somewhere along the way?’ and he responded giving his brother credit saying, ‘Yeah, Dylan taught me how to throw.’”

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Lisa McCaffrey recalled hearing after the Colorado game that Hooper nudged her son in the huddle before the play and told him something like, “Just throw it; I’ll be in the end zone,” which prompted a laugh from Lisa as she said, “That was something Ed would say.”

With chances to impress the Heisman voters dwindling, McCaffrey’s performances the next few weeks will need to be more than just steady, 100-yard rushing games and trick TD plays — they will need to be show-stopping. But Lisa McCaffrey trusts his ability to keep it all in perspective as the pressure mounts.

“Watching Ed over the years, Christian has come to realize that you are only as good as your last game,” said Lisa McCaffrey. “And there is always a game to look ahead to.”

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