Valor Chris­tian quar­ter­back Dy­lan McCa≠rey steps out of his fam­ily’s shadow

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Kyle New­man

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.”

Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

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

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