Summer 2024

Panthers' Christian McCaffrey helps save 72-year-old man on hiking trip

One year ago, Christian McCaffrey was preparing for the NFL Draft. The Stanford University alum was selected seventh overall by Carolina and was a key contributor in his 2017 rookie season for a team that finished with 11 wins and a playoff berth. His 80 receptions were second in the NFL by a running back and his seven touchdowns were tied for second on the team.

Of all the talents McCaffrey has as a versatile running back, it doesn’t compare to what he and his family and friends were able to accomplish this past Saturday.

The 21-year-old McCaffrey was out hiking in Castle Rock, Colo., when they saw Dan Smoker Sr., 72, fall 20 feet down onto a rock during his own hiking trip with his grandson, Eli Smoker.

“We were going to go to lunch,” McCaffrey recalled Tuesday in a phone interview to, “and then just randomly we were like, ‘Let’s go hike the rock.’”

And then, as they proceeded with their hike, they came upon Smoker tumbling down onto that rock.

“It felt like he was in the air for 10 seconds,” Christian 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.”

Immediately, McCaffrey called the paramedics and his friends along with another onlooker rushed to Smoker’s aid.

“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.”

As they waited, McCaffrey and his family and friends in Castle Rock began to pray as Smoker Sr. fought for his life. Soon after, the ambulance arrived and Dan was rushed to the hospital. After being examined by doctors, they found that he had suffered a broken femur, broken pelvis, internal bleeding, bleeding on the brain, nine fractured ribs and a broken neck.

Yet somehow, someway, after all of that, Dan Smoker Sr. was alive.

The next day,  McCaffrey – along with his mom and brothers – went to the hospital to check on Smoker and his family.

As of Tuesday, Smoker Sr. was in critical but stable condition.

McCaffrey, who turns 22 in June, has kept in touch with the Smokers since via text message. Being alone and not sure what to do, it was McCaffrey and his family and friends that kept young Eli Smoker calm as they comforted him.

“Eli was such a trooper, man,” McCaffrey said. “I was traumatized, and I had no relation.”

For the rest of their lives, the McCaffrey family and the Smoker will family will forever be connected.

“Truly a blessing that we turned the corner at that exact moment and we could be there for him,” McCaffrey said. “I don’t know what would have happened … We were lucky to be at the right place at the right time.”