Northern Colorado football coach Ed McCaffrey tried his best not to influence the decision-making of his son Dylan, as the University of Michigan quarterback entered the transfer portal this winter in search of a new team.
Dylan McCaffrey — winner of three state championships at Valor Christian (2013, 15-16) and once rated the No. 6 QB recruit in the nation — spoke with a number of big-school coaches. Yet all roads led to Greeley.
McCaffrey, arguably the most coveted signee in UNC football history, chose to play for his dad.
“He wanted to come home, he wanted to live in Colorado, and he wanted to play at UNC,” Ed McCaffrey told reporters on Thursday during a virtual news conference. “As a coach, obviously, I’m extremely thrilled because he makes us a whole lot better. But also, as a father, it’s a really cool experience being able to coach your son.”
Dylan McCaffrey graduated from Michigan with two years of eligibility left and is expected to assume the starting quarterback role beginning in late spring when UNC plays a modified nonconference schedule. He leaves Michigan having appeared in only 13 games — failing to secure the starting job after redshirting, playing two seasons, and opting out in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But former teammates never doubted McCaffrey’s physical gifts at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds.
Michael Sessa, a walk-on Michigan quarterback who graduated in 2019, described McCaffrey as someone “eager to learn about football” with exceptional athletic prowess. Like in 2018, against Wisconsin, when McCaffrey sprinted for a 44-yard touchdown run.
“Dylan is a fast kid, super quick, and he can make cuts similar to running backs,” Sessa told The Denver Post. “You saw that when he got into games. The play that comes to mind is the touchdown he scored against Wisconsin on a read-option. He just made a cut and outran everybody. You were able to see that in practice, for sure.”
McCaffrey’s former high school coach, Rod Sherman, was surprised Dylan chose an FCS school given his clear talent. Although Sherman is confident the Bears, after three straight losing seasons, are now instant contenders in the Big Sky.
“You’d have to think with him they have a chance to compete for a national championship,” Sherman said.
Ed McCaffrey, in his first season as UNC head coach, welcomes those expectations after his Big Sky counterparts in preseason voted the Bears to finish last in the conference.
“With every team that I’ve ever coached at every level, it’s about winning a championship. A lot of people laugh at me (here) when I say that. They’re not laughing as hard now,” Ed McCaffrey said Thursday. “I emphasize to our players all the time — set goals for yourself. I’m a big goal setter. I say if you’re not setting them high enough, and people aren’t laughing at your goals, then you need to set them higher, right? Same for me. … We expect to win every game that we play.”
The challenge of coaching his own son is not expected to weigh heavy on Ed McCaffrey, who said he’s done it before with each of his four boys at some point during their football careers. Ed has learned the importance of flipping the switch between coach and dad when necessary, in hopes that a family bond yields football success in 2021 and beyond for the Bears.
His oldest son, Max, is also UNC’s wide receivers coach.
“When we’re on the football field, when we’re in the weight room, and when we’re getting ready to play a game, I’m a coach. Dylan is one of many players that I coach and everybody is treated the same and it’s a meritocracy,” Ed McCaffrey said. “You have to have thick skin and (take) constructive criticism. But you can’t live that 24 hours a day. There needs to be a break and there needs to be a boundary. Luckily, I made all my mistakes with Max. Then learned with Christian and with Dylan and with Luke.
“We’ve grown used to that dynamic and I feel very comfortable.”
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