Christian McCaffrey, friend recount helping man after Castle Rock hiking accident

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CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Carolina Panthers running back and Coloradan Christian McCaffrey helped save a man while hiking Castle Rock with his friends and brother in March.

The Panthers published two videos Wednesday recounting the rescue effort.

McCaffrey, who starred at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch before going to Stanford and then the NFL, was hiking Castle Rock with his brother and a few friends when the incident happened.

“It wasn’t even in our schedule for the day. It was really just kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision for all of us,” McCaffrey said.

On their way down the rock, the group saw an older man and a boy descending. The man slipped, hitting a rock and falling into a crevice.

The man was 73-year-old Dan Smoker Sr.

“I heard what sounded like a slip of a shoe and I turned around to see my grandpa falling to the ground,” Eli Smoker, Dan’s grandson, said.

McCaffrey, the son of former Broncos receiver and current Valor Christian football coach Ed McCaffrey, then called 911.

In the Panthers’ video, one can hear a portion of the call.

“His eyes are starting to roll,” he told the 911 operator. He then reassured Dan Sr. that help was on the way.

“Come on, Dan,” McCaffrey is heard saying several times.

“When I [saw] his eyes start to roll back, I mean, I was pretty panicked,” McCaffrey said. “That was the moment where I didn’t think he would make it at all.”

He said that at first, he did not know what to do.

Michael Mann, one of McCaffrey’s friends with whom he was hiking, was instructed to perform CPR. While he had not been taught CPR, he began performing chest compressions.

“I put both my hands together and tried to hop on his chest the best I could,” Mann said. “By a miracle or the grace of God — whatever you want to call it — he was able to come back to at least convulsing again.”

McCaffrey said it took first responders just 11 minutes to arrive. They put Dan Sr. in a neck brace and carried him off the trail in a gurney.

Dan Sr. said he broke his neck, femur, pelvis and nine ribs. He also had internal abdominal bleeding.

The following day, McCaffrey, his father and friends visited Dan Sr. in the hospital. He said at first, the Smoker family did not recognize the McCaffreys as football stars.

“We just wanted to be there for them. And it was kind of cool to have an interaction like that before they knew, too. Just to see that they’re such a genuinely amazing family,” said Christian. “It never matters who you are unless you’re a good person, and we saw that in the Smokers,” Christian said.

“I just gained a real appreciation for what they did there,” Dan Sr. said.

He was released from the hospital and continues to recover. While he uses a cane to get around, he said he may not need it for much longer.

“If I keep progressing like I am now, I’ll be able to walk in another month or so without a cane,” Dan Sr. said.

McCaffrey and the Panthers invited the Smokers to a home game during the upcoming season. They plan to attend the Panthers’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Smokers’ hometown team.

“It’s about being a good person and being there for someone when they’re struggling,” Christian said.

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