En route to lunch, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, his brothers Dylan and Max, and their friends Michael Mann and Brooke Pettet made a last-minute decision to stop for a hike in Castle Rock, Colorado. One family they’d never met before is so glad they did.
During their journey, McCaffrey and Co. saw 72-year-old Dan Smoker Sr., hiking with his 13-year-old grandson Eli, stumble and fall 20 feet onto a rock.
The friends immediately took action. The running back called 911 while the group, including another onlooker identified as Chris, tended to the fallen hiker.
“It felt like he was in the air for 10 seconds,” McCaffrey told Panthers.com. “I had never seen anything quite like that in my life as far as the trauma and the sound. We were in shock. … Everybody stepped up. I called 911, and it felt like an eternity. It felt like we were up there waiting for four hours. But I looked back at my call log and it took 11 minutes before the paramedics came. Amazing what those guys did.”
Once at the hospital, Smoker Sr. was found to have suffered a broken femur, a broken pelvis, internal bleeding, bleeding on the brain, nine fractured ribs and a broken neck.
A day later, McCaffrey, his brothers, and his mom visited Smoker Sr. in the hospital.
Michael Mann, @run__cmc and @notoriousmax25 are great football players, but even better humans. Yesterday, they helped save my dads life after he fell off of Castle Rock. They comforted my son when he was alone. Then showed up at the hospital to check in. @AdamSchefter @espn pic.twitter.com/MVAdbr2gYV
— Dan Smoker (@dsmokexu) March 4, 2018
I know where Eli gets his strength! Watched Dan Sr. fight with everything he has and I know he will continue to do so! We’re praying for you guys!🙏🏼
— Christian McCaffrey (@run__cmc) March 6, 2018
“One of the things that amazed me the most was just the humility,” said Dan Smoker Jr., whom Eli called while waiting for paramedics. “It was not about, ‘Look at who I am.’ They just wanted to make sure we were OK. That was it. They wanted to see how my son was doing.”
He added: “I credit them with saving my dad’s life.”
McCaffrey is used to playing the safety valve, but it’s usually for Cam Newton. As a rookie in 2017, McCaffrey led the Panthers with 80 catches and 1,086 yards from scrimmage, doing so much of his damage in the flat. He continues to keep in touch with young Eli.
“We all took it upon ourselves to check up on that kid,” McCaffrey said. “It could be a lifelong bond between us. He experienced a lot in those five minutes.”