This weekend's NFL London game features the league's best player

Luke Bradshaw
Sports Writer

Some of the NFL’s household names have made their way into the casual UK fan’s consciousness.

There’s Tom Brady, conductor of six Super Bowl wins with the New England Patriots, diva wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., he of one-handed catching fame, or veteran quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees who are still leading their teams in the twilight of stellar careers.

None of them, however, are playing as well this season as the Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey. The 23-year-old running back is lightning quick, granite hard and best of all, is heading to London this weekend.

Christian McCaffrey against the Jacksonville Jaguars (Credit: Getty Images)

In the second match of the NFL London series, McCaffrey’s Panthers face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and while the Panthers man was good last season, he’s been nothing short of sensational in 2019, ripping teams to pieces in devastating fashion. Given his family, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

McCaffrey is the son of former wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, who won three Super Bowls in a career that included spells at the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. His mum was a college athlete and soccer player, whose own dad won a silver medal in the 100 metres at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, and why Christian credits his mother for his electric speed.

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At high school Christian played running back, wide receiver, cornerback and punter, before specialising as a running back at Stanford, where he attended college. His two younger brothers, Dylan (Michigan) and Luke (Nebraska), are both currently at Division 1 colleges playing football. His older brother played soccer at Duke. Sport is clearly in the genes.

The Colorado native was also, unsurprisingly, a sprinter at Stanford, posting a personal best of 10.75 seconds for the 100 metres. In his sophomore season he had a breakout year where his 3,864 all-purpose yards broke the NCAA record of Barry Sanders and he became the first Stanford player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, eventually finishing runner up for the Heisman Trophy.

In the 2017 Draft the Panthers took him in the first round, with the 8th pick overall. In his rookie season he was decent, in his second he was good. This year, however, he’s been virtually unstoppable.

In 2019 he ranks first across all running backs for rushing yards, catches, touches and rushes. Against the Jags last week he scored three touchdowns, tied a career high with 237 yards from scrimmage and set a franchise record with an incredible 84-yard TD run.

You could continue to reel off statistics, but the real beauty lies in the fact that newcomers don’t need to know anything about the player, the NFL or football in general to enjoy McCaffrey. Watching him dice through an entire defense or leapfrog over opposing players is evidence enough of just how exciting he has been to watch.

With Cam Newton, the Panthers franchise quarterback, out injured, McCaffrey has revelled in the extra space afforded to him and additional responsibility and workload on his shoulders, making him the focal point of their attack.

At 5ft 11in and 205lbs (14st 7lb) he is relatively small when it comes to American football players, and yet he is tough, durable and capable of 35-40 touches per game. Huge, powerful athletes are trying to lay their hands on him and are left flailing in his wake.

Last weekend Tottenham served up a brilliant opener for London games this season with the Raiders 24-21 win over the Bears, McCaffrey is capable of providing the same sort of entertainment all on his own.

McCaffrey prepares against the Arizona Cardinals (Credit: Getty Images)

Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL London

Sunday 13th October, 14:30pm

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London

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