Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey described it as a beautiful Saturday for a hike with friends and family at Colorado’s Castle Rock.
That is until the running back witnessed a life-or-death situation unfolding before his eyes.
As McCaffrey — with brothers Dylan and Max and friends Michael Mann and Brooke Pettet — turned a corner on a path toward the top, he saw a 72-year-old man fall about 20 feet and land on a rock, he told the Panthers website.
“It felt like he was in the air for 10 seconds,” McCaffrey told the Panthers. “I had never seen anything quite like that in my life as far as the trauma and the sound. We were in shock.”
But McCaffrey and his companions quickly sprang into action.
McCaffrey called 911, the site said, and a witness to the accident named Chris kept the victim’s head still and Mann performed chest compressions after he stopped breathing. And the group prayed for the badly hurt hiker.
“Everybody stepped up,” McCaffrey told the Panthers, adding that after he call for help “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.”
Who was with the victim when he fell?
Eli Smoker — just 13 years old — was hiking with his grandfather, Dan Smoker Sr., when the 72-year-old fell, the site said.
Eli was soon on the phone with his dad, Dan Smoker, who was in San Diego celebrating his 15th wedding anniversary, the Panthers noted.
“My dad is laying there, and there is nothing I can do for him. And my son is there freaking out, and there’s nothing I can do for him,” Dan Smoker told the site. “It was the worst experience, both as a father and as a son.”
What happened to the victim?
Smoker Sr. was rushed a hospital where doctors discovered he had a broken neck, bleeding on the brain, internal bleeding, a broken pelvis, a broken femur and nine fractured ribs, the Panthers said — and was still alive.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, Smoker Sr. was in critical but stable condition, the site reported.
“I credit them with saving my dad’s life,” Smoker told the Panthers of McCaffrey and his group.
What did McCaffrey do next?
McCaffrey and his mother and brothers went to the hospital to check on Smoker Sr.’s family the very next day, the site said — and the victim’s son had no idea a pro football player took part in his father’s rescue.
“They introduced themselves, and I still hadn’t pieced it together,” Smoker told the Panthers. “I can’t say I’d recognize Christian without his football gear on. Around here, Valor Christian is a popular high school, and I knew that Ed McCaffrey had just taken over as head coach there. We were talking, and they had mentioned that they went to Valor, and we were looking there because our son loves football as well.”
How else is McCaffrey connected to Colorado?
See, Christian McCaffrey’s father Ed is a Denver Broncos legend. And his brother Max — also part of the group that tended to the victim — plays for the San Francisco 49ers. Christian McCaffrey himself just finished his rookie year with the Panthers, rushing for 435 yards on 117 attempts, ESPN said. You might say the McCaffrey name is rather big in the area around Castle Rock.
And soon Smoker figured it all out.
“One of the things that amazed me the most was just the humility,” Smoker told the site. “It was not about, ‘Look at who I am.’ They just wanted to make sure we were OK. That was it. They wanted to see how my son was doing.”
Smoker added to the Panthers that McCaffrey’s response “shows the really good side of humanity.”
What did McCaffrey say about the victim’s 13-year-old grandson?
McCaffrey continues to text Eli, who’s still processing the accident, the Panthers said.
“Eli was such a trooper, man,” McCaffrey told the site. “I was traumatized, and I had no relation.”
The running back added to the Panthers that there “could be a lifelong bond between us. He experienced a lot in those five minutes.”
McCaffrey also told the site it was “truly a blessing that we turned the corner at that exact moment and we could be there for him. I don’t know what would have happened. … We were lucky to be at the right place at the right time.”