Summer 2024

NFL leading rusher Christian McCaffrey aims to give 'honor and glory' back to God

San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey did not let his four-touchdown performance or the thousands of fans showering him with praise at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday distract him from his routine. McCaffrey told the San Francisco Chronicle after San Francisco’s 35-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals that he was praying throughout the game like he always does.

The two-time Pro Bowler and 2019 first-team All-Pro prays on the sideline as well as in the huddle, thanking God for the opportunity to play the sport he loves and asking that everyone on the field remains healthy. McCaffrey’s faith plays a central role in his life, and he wants to make sure God is getting the glory for his accomplishments.

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“My faith is very important to me and that’s why I’m praying all the time,” he told the Chronicle. “When you have a bunch of people chanting your name, it’s important that you give the honor and glory back to the person, God, that’s allowing me to do this.”

McCaffrey finished with 177 total yards from scrimmage (106 rushing, 71 receiving), earning him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. It was the 13th straight game McCaffrey scored a touchdown, which broke Jerry Rice’s franchise record. McCaffrey currently leads the NFL with 459 rushing yards, and his six rushing touchdowns are tied for the most in the league.

He scored the first three touchdowns of Sunday’s game, finding the end zone on the ground in each of the first two quarters and then catching a 3-yard pass from quarterback Brock Purdy to extend the 49ers’ lead to 21-3. He added another rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The 4-0 49ers acquired McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers just under a year ago in an effort to boost their Super Bowl hopes with another dynamic playmaker. He is averaging 80.3 rushing yards, 40.3 receiving yards and 1.1 touchdowns in 15 regular-season games with the team.

San Francisco came up one win shy of the Super Bowl last season, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship game after Purdy injured his elbow. Those two teams are the only ones without a loss through the first four weeks of this season.

McCaffrey and Purdy have formed a strong connection on the field, but they are also bonded by their shared faith in God. Purdy specifically mentioned McCaffrey during a conversation with Sports Spectrum earlier this year as one of the people within the 49ers organization who has helped Purdy in his walk with Christ.

“I didn’t know what to expect going into a professional locker room, who’s a believer, who’s not or any of that stuff,” Purdy told Sports Spectrum. “And I was very fortunate and blessed to have guys like Charlie Woerner, Christian McCaffrey, pastor Earl Smith, Oren Burks, these guys that are just solid believers. We’d meet before road games and just have our little Bible studies. But the biggest thing for me was, man, having fellowship. You’re in a crazy business, you’re on the road, you’re going to different places. But to have guys that believe in the Lord and can help you and pour into you with their experiences and everything, I found that huge.”

To share his faith, McCaffrey will often include Bible verses as one of the photos in his Instagram posts and did so in his post on Monday celebrating his big game. The verse he chose was Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

One of the lessons McCaffrey has learned during his seven-year career is the freedom that comes with surrendering everything to God. In an interview with Queen City News in August 2022, he explained that he found peace in accepting that he was not in control.

“When you have a ‘why,’ you can endure everything, and I think when your faith is strong, when you understand what’s going on in your life … you just turn to God and surrender,” he said. “For me, that was the biggest weight off my back was that word — just keep telling myself, ‘Surrender.’ You’re not in control as much as you think you are, and that’s a gift.”

Up next for San Francisco is a meeting with the 3-1 Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. Kickoff from Levi’s Stadium is set for 8:20 p.m. ET.

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