DYLAN McCAFFREY IS GOLD HELMET WINNER
Valor Christian quarterback Dylan McCa≠rey steps out of his family’s shadow
Dylan McCaffrey doesn’t live in the shadow of his father, a retired NFL wide receiver, or his two Division I football-playing brothers. He has made his own brand while playing quarterback at Valor Christian.
The assessment of why Valor Christian senior quarterback Dylan McCaffrey is the 2016 Gold Helmet winner must start by discounting his school and the weight his last name carries. Although those are important parts of him — and important parts in his success — the truth is that the 6-foot-5, 210-pound blue-chip recruit heads to the University of Michigan next year as one of the greatest quarterbacks to come out of the state of Colorado.
He is no longer Dylan McCaffrey, son of Broncos legend Ed McCaffrey. He is no longer Dylan McCaffrey, brother to Division I stars Max McCaffrey and Christian McCaffrey, who won the Gold Helmet in 2013. He is no longer Dylan McCaffrey, inheritor of the keys to greatness of the powerhouse Valor Christian football program.
Dylan McCaffrey is now Dylan McCaffrey. He has built his own brand. He has created his own greatness.
After quarterbacking the Eagles to the Class 5A title each of the past two seasons over Pomona — performances that included Dylan engineering a furious fourth-quarter comeback to win in 2015, and then Dylan gouging the Panthers for 245 yards and three scores this year en route to the championship repeat — the senior has not been, for quite some time, a mere benefactor of the Valor Christian tradition. He is now a part of it, an Eagle immortal.
And after sweeping every other major prep football prize leading up to the Gold Helmet, including getting selected the state’s Gatorade player of the year, and also getting named to the Army All-American Bowl — Dylan is ready to head off next fall to Ann Arbor, where he has the skills and work ethic to compete for playing time as a freshman.
“He is so humble and has such a teachable spirit about him,” Valor Christian coach Rod Sherman said. “It’s not often that a guy has that many accomplishments and is so well-liked by his teammates. His character is why his teammates love him and why his teammates are so excited for his success.”
Ben Waters, Dylan’s go-to wideout during the 2015 championship season who now plays at the Air Force Academy, echoed Sherman’s sentiments, noting that
Dylan has never taken for granted his natural athleticism or the opportunity to play for one of the state’s best programs.
“He’s never big-leagued anyone, and he never will, because he knows that’s not how you build a team dynamic and that’s not how you lead guys to win games,” Waters said. “From a quarterback standpoint, he’s just a pure leader and he’s the hardest worker when it comes to film, the weight room, everything. His teammates see that, and respect that.”
After seeing some varsity playing time and rushing for seven touchdowns his freshman year, Dylan entered his sophomore season as the team’s starting quarterback. He wound up starting 41 consecutive games, and used that fall to learn what was it like to be molded in the football fire.
“My sophomore year, frankly, I didn’t play as good as I would have hoped,” McCaffrey said. “You think you’re going to go in and be an all-star, but there were a lot of moments in that season that helped me realize you’re not going to be perfect at all. The sport is about growing, and it’s about getting better every day.”
The ending to his sophomore season — a dramatic 25-24 championship loss to Cherry Creek in what many called the greatest high school football game ever played in this state — didn’t throw his confidence off the rails, and it didn’t give him a deep burning down in his belly, either. That’s the thing about Dylan — he consistently remains level-headed and composed, and even then he knew such a championship setback wouldn’t change his day-in and day-out approach to the game.
“Truthfully, with Dylan, I never sensed that a loss motivated him any more, or a win made him pull off from his motivation,” Sherman said. “He had a ton on his shoulders as a 15-year-old sophomore that year. He learned so much about playing the quarterback position, and for him, a loss never crafted his work ethic. Because what that would insinuate is his work ethic hasn’t been really, really good all along the way.”
Coupled with that intense work ethic is perspective, which Dylan already has despite the fact that the fanfare of his career is merely beginning. Even though he’s projected to eventually star for the Wolverines and morph into a bona fide NFL prospect, the senior knows football will end someday.
That’s why he applies equal focus to other areas of his life, from academia (he holds a 3.71 GPA) to community service (he has dug water trenches in Thailand and volunteered in the “Dare to Play” football program for young people with Down syndrome) to faith (he earned the Valor Football Leadership Rooted in Christ Award this season).
And now, football-wise, Dylan is taking a similar approach to the one he had when he first stepped in as Valor Christian’s starting quarterback — chip on the shoulder, a lot to prove; blocking out all the hype; and a strict adherence to the old Lou Holtz ethos of “If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven’t done anything today.”
“My immediate goal is to learn the playbook,” McCaffrey said of being at Michigan. “It’s definitely vast and complicated, and going into college, it’s going to be a completely new language and all-new terminology. Other than that, my goal is to just compete. Even if I’m not going to start as a freshman, I’m going to at the very least make them take notice, and then after that just embrace my role to make the team better.”
Valor Christian quarterback Dylan McCaffrey holds The Denver Post’s Gold Helmet he was awarded Thursday.
Valor Christian quarterback Dylan McCaffrey scores a touchdown during the Eagles’ 30-14 win over Pomona in the 5A state championship game in Denver on Dec. 3. Joe Amon, The Denver Post