When Stanford faces North Carolina in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30, it will do so without star running back Christian McCaffrey.
McCaffrey announced Monday morning that he will not participate in the game in order to begin preparing for the NFL draft “immediately.” McCaffrey, a junior who was the Heisman runner-up in 2015, announced his decision to leave school early for the NFL earlier this month.
McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA record for all-purpose yards last season when put up 3,864 yards — 2,019 rushing yards, 645 receiving yards and 1,200 return yards — en route to a Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl win for the Cardinal.
This season, McCaffrey rushed for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns along with 37 catches for 310 yards and three scores receiving.
“We understand that this was a very difficult decision. For three years Christian has not only been a great player, but a great teammate as well,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw. “We wish him great success at the next level, as we continue our preparation for the Sun Bowl.”
McCaffrey’s decision not to play in his team’s bowl comes a few days after LSU’s Leonard Fournette — another projected high-round pick — did the same. Fournette has been dealing with an ankle injury throughout the season, however, and said he has not completely healed. McCaffrey has missed just one game this season, though he was banged up earlier in the year.
Could McCaffrey’s decision spark a trend in college football? Last season, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a significant knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Smith was a projected top 10 pick, but fell to the second round because of the injury, costing him millions in guaranteed money.
Smith has not played this season for the Dallas Cowboys, but is expected to return to the field in 2017.
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