After Monday's football practice, a TV reporter asked Stanford football coach David Shaw a question. Then poof, he was gone.
"I've never seen a guy ask a question and then leave," Shaw said. "That's a new one for me. I thought I had seen it all."
Turns out that only a few feet away Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey was ready to speak, and the TV reporter felt the urgency to walk away.
That's just a taste of what is to come this fall for the 20-year-old junior and the rest of the Cardinal, which is coming off a resounding Rose Bowl victory and is ranked No. 7 in the preseason coaches poll.
"Whether we're No. 1 in the nation or not ranked, we approach each day the same way," McCaffrey said. "And that's just focusing on us and what we can do to execute."
Available to chat for roughly four minutes, McCaffrey was peppered with questions. Beginning with: How does he feel?
"I had a great offseason and put my body in the best position to compete for training camp," McCaffrey said. "And I'm ready to go from here."Listed as 6 feet tall and 201 pounds, the running back was held out of full-contact work this spring after amassing more than 400 touches as a sophomore -- not to mention 3,864 yards to break the NCAA single-season all-purpose yards record.
Is the plan to lighten his load?
"Are you kidding me? I'm going to start giving him some of my responsibilities -- the guy has handled everything else," Shaw said last month at Pac-12 Media Day. "I think when you have a great player, the last thing you want to do is pump the brakes. You want to push the accelerator."
For his part, McCaffrey wants no part of taking it easy.
"I love the work, I accept the work," he said. "I like to continue to push to however far I can go."
That includes rushing, receiving, passing (he threw two TDs last year) and returning kicks.
"The day that I walk up to him and say that he's not going to return a kickoff, I know he won't say anything because he'll do whatever we ask him to, but he'll feel gutshot, he'll feel terrible," Shaw said. "He loves it. He absolutely loves it. And when you see him kickoff return, you watch him punt return, you see the passion that he has for it."
Being thrust into the national spotlight at events such as the ESPYs, McCaffrey appears to be having fun with his notoriety. At Pac-12 Media Day, he mentioned growing up with a pot-bellied pig. After Monday's practice, he wanted to put the record straight by spelling out its name.
"T-A-R-A-N-C-E, rest in peace," McCaffrey said. "He passed away of obesity, but was our pot-bellied pig when we were little."
One of the reporters offered his condolences.
"Yeah, thank you," McCaffrey added.But it's obvious he prefers to be wearing a helmet and pads instead of a suit. To elude would-be tacklers rather than questions about whether he's thinking about turning pro after this season.
"No, not at all," McCaffrey said. "I'm just focused on what I can do this season, what I can do today to help our team win games."
That includes learning all of the offensive-line assignments in the playbook.
"I'm not perfect on all of them," McCaffrey said. "But definitely knowing who they're going to makes my job a lot easier."
He then added: "You can always improve and always know more, and that's what makes football so great. Especially doing a bunch of things on the field. You have to know a lot of things, and the more you know, the better you play."
His head coach has certainly taken notice.
"He's stronger, he's faster, he knows the offense better," Shaw said. "So it's been exciting just for two days knowing how much easier things are for him, but also how hard he works. It's a fun thing to watch."
McCaffrey is even turning into a vocal leader. That's one reason offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren asked him to "talk to the team about having a high standard of performance," Shaw said. "And it was phenomenal. It's not about him stepping outside of himself. It's just being honest and open with his teammates, whom he loves. So that leadership just comes very natural to him."
Now it's a matter of reshuffling the cards on the offensive line, with three spots left vacant from last year. Not to mention a quarterback battle between redshirt sophomore Keller Chryst out of Palo Alto High and redshirt junior Ryan Burns.
"This is a new team and we own that, but it's a new team every year," McCaffrey said. "And so we're going to do what the older guys have taught us, do what our coaches tell and we recruit talented players, so that's what we've got and that's what we're going to play with."
This article was written by Vytas Mazeika from Palo Alto Daily News, Calif. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.