Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey's offseason went from ordinary to traumatic when he, his friends, and his brothers (including 49ers wide receiver Max McCaffrey) watched 72-year-old Dan Smoker Sr. fall 20 feet onto a rock below him during a hike up Castle Rock in Castle Rock, Colo. on Saturday. Thankfully, in part because of the quick response by McCaffrey, the rest of his group, and paramedics, Smoker survived the fall.
On Tuesday, McCaffrey, who is coming off a rookie season that saw him total 1,086 yards and seven touchdowns from scrimmage, told Panthers.com about the traumatic experience.
"It's such a … I don't know what you'd call it," McCaffrey said. "Truly a blessing that we turned the corner at that exact moment and we could be there for him."
As they rounded the corner, McCaffrey watched Smoker, who was hiking with his 13-year-old grandson Eli, fall for what felt like 10 seconds.
"It felt like he was in the air for 10 seconds," McCaffrey said. "I had never seen anything quite like that in my life as far as the trauma and the sound. We were in shock."
McCaffrey called for help. The others tended to Smoker until paramedics arrived 11 minutes later. According to Panthers.com's Max Henson, Smoker suffered "a broken femur, a broken pelvis, internal bleeding, bleeding on the brain, nine fractured ribs and a broken neck." At one point, before the paramedics got there, his breathing stopped, which forced the group to perform chest compressions. Smoker is in critical condition, but he's stable.
"Everybody stepped up," McCaffrey said. "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."
That 911 call has since been released by TMZ Sports.
Dan Smoker, Smoker Sr.'s son, credited them with saving his dad's life.
"I credit them with saving my dad's life," Dan said.
In the aftermath, McCaffrey has been exchanging texts with Eli to check in on him. As McCaffrey said, "I was traumatized, and I had no relation." He added that "it could be a lifelong bond between us."
Afterwards, Dan tweeted about the incident, which the McCaffrey brothers both responded to.
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@espnpic.twitter.com/MVAdbr2gYV— Dan Smoker (@dsmokexu) March 4, 2018
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 is lucky to have such a strong and courageous grandson. Eli handled the tough situation in the best way possible. Continuously praying for Dan and your family!— Max McCaffrey (@notoriousmax25) March 6, 2018
I know where Eli gets his strength! Watched Dan Sr. fight with everything he has and I know he will continue to do so! We’re praying for you guys!🙏🏼— Christian McCaffrey (@run__cmc) March 6, 2018
"I don't know what would have happened," McCaffrey said. "We were lucky to be at the right place at the right time."