Christian McCaffrey is billed as one of the top rookies to watch during the 2017 NFL season. His dynamic skills and pass-catching ability make him an imposing threat out of the Carolina Panthers’ backfield.
But for any rookie, the transition to the NFL can be a daunting task. The schedule is demanding. The opposing players are bigger and faster. And the playbook might look like an encyclopedia.
We had the chance to chat with McCaffrey to check up on his preseason and his thoughts going into his first game just after he tested out Call of Duty: WWII, the latest version of his longtime favorite video game.
STACK: What has the preseason experience been like?
McCaffrey: It’s been awesome. Definitely been a learning experience. It’s good to finally get in game mode. We were practicing against our own squad for a while during camp so it’s good to get the feet wet and get the jitters out going against some other teams. I think we’re all really excited for the regular season to start and really get going. I feel confident and I love everyone on our team, so I’m excited.
What have been the biggest challenges so far?
I think the biggest challenges coming into a new team are getting acclimated and getting comfortable with the guys. But that’s something that always comes. I got lucky coming to the Panthers because everybody is so welcoming and there’s really no class as far as rookies and veterans. Everybody treats you like a human being, which is great. It makes coming in as a rookie a lot easier and makes it a lot easier to get comfortable as well. I can’t thank the guys on the team, especially the veterans, enough for welcoming all of us.
How have you adjusted to the speed of the NFL?
It’s definitely a different speed. I think the biggest thing is getting comfortable with your own offense and your own plays. At the end of the day, it’s still 11 guys on 11 guys. It’s football. That’s how I approach it. You don’t really worry about the speed. You just make sure that every time a play is called, you know what to do and know how to execute.
Who has been the toughest player that you’ve had to face so far?
Every day in practice I’m going against guys like Luke [Kuechly], Thomas [Davis] and Shaq [Thompson] and the monsters on our D-line. It makes practice really fun but you need to bring it every day, and you know at all times that you got to compete.
How did you become such a good route runner?
It’s something I’ve taken pride in my whole life. My dad being a wide receiver taught me so much as far as route running goes. I just figured the more things I could do—whether that was taking handoffs inside or outside or lining up in the slot or wideout—the more ways you can get me the ball, the better. I’m not going to complain if the ball is in my hands.
Should more running backs emphasize route running?
Everyone has their strengths. Some guys are big power backs who don’t really catch the ball. Some guys are able to do multiple things. As far as the leagues go, it’s a changing league where more backs are having to do more and are being asked to do more.
Who are you most excited to face?
I’m excited to face everybody. This is the NFL. It’s a dream come true. So every week you really need to strap up and get ready to go because there are great players on every team.
When did you first start playing Call of Duty?
I started playing Call of Duty a long time ago when I was little. I’ve always loved it. I have three brothers so we’d always play together, which made it a lot of fun. Ever since I started playing video games, my brothers and I would always play against each other. Call of Duty happened to be the game we were drawn to.
What do you like most about the Call of Duty franchise?
It’s one of those games where it’s hard to stop once you start playing. I love the concept of war and fighting, and I think it’s one of the best fighting games. Especially this year with WWII, which I had the opportunity to play today. It’s amazing. I’m really excited about.
What was your first impression of Call of Duty WWII?
It was exciting. It’s going back to its roots—boots on the ground, old classic World War II style. It was a lot of fun. The war mode was really cool. Football is kind of similar because it’s all about teamwork. You can tell in some of the different modes that you really have to come together as a team to accomplish your goals and get the win. It’s a lot of fun and really entertaining and always keeps you on your toes because it’s never the same.