When he joined Hail Varsity Radio Tuesday afternoon, recent Husker quarterback commit Luke McCaffrey was asked which NFL quarterbacks he followed closest. The 4-star from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, started listing off names ranging from legend Steve Young to 2017’s rookie sensation Deshaun Watson. Then he said Aaron Rodgers. Then he said Marcus Mariota.
You remember Mariota, right? The guy that led the Oregon Ducks to the 2014 College Football Playoff championship game? The guy that won the Heisman Trophy while leading the country in quarterback efficiency? The guy Scott Frost coached? That Mariota.
McCaffrey stands the same height as Mariota — 6-foot-2 — and now will learn from the same coach. He’s got a similar ability to beat a defense with efficient quarterbacking and opportunistic running. Nebraska fans would probably be happy with even a fraction of Mariota’s college success from the highest-rated member of the Huskers’ 2019 recruiting class, but maybe Frost and his quarterback coach, Mario Verduzco, saw a little of Mariota in him? Maybe.
There’s certainly no need to put those kinds of expectations on a kid before he plays his senior high school season but then again, once the Husker coaching staff got on McCaffrey’s radar, things moved rather quickly.
On March 26, the scholarship offer came in. On April 7, he visited with his father, former NFL wideout Ed McCaffrey, to watch a practice and talk with the coaches.
“I had a meeting with Coach Verduzco about how the program works and how they install plays and just how he wants a quarterback to be,” Luke said. “It was a couple hours at least. It was special, I really felt a connection with him and I can’t wait to get working with him because I think the way he looks at the game and how he thinks about the quarterback position is really something special.”
The conversation with Frost was a little more general — how the program is going to look with Frost at the helm, how the offensive system works, stuff like that — and when McCaffrey left, he felt good about Nebraska. His parents told him to think it over, maybe take another visit to make sure so he went and checked out what North Carolina had to offer (he said the Huskers, Tar Heels and Virginia Cavaliers were his top three).
On Monday, he pulled the trigger.
“When I visited Nebraska I really just felt a connection to it and my parents encouraged me to just be completely confident in my decision and test out a few other schools and after I did that I really just knew that Nebraska was the choice,” McCaffrey said.
“Obviously it’s a historic program in college football and it’d be a dream to play for them and when Frost got there it felt like the timing was right.”
The youngest of Colorado football’s First Family feels like his skillset fits right into what Nebraska wants at quarterback: an athlete. Not only has McCaffrey played all over the field in high school — quarterback (941 yards, 76 percent completion rate), running back (792 yards), receiver (864 yards), return man (525 yards) and safety (two picks, four deflections, one blocked kick) — but he’s also played all over the athletic department. He’s a four-sport athlete with experience in lacrosse, track and basketball.
The athletic genes that run through the McCaffrey family — brothers Christian (Heisman finalist at Stanford, NFL back), Max (Duke wideout) and Dylan (5-star quarterback at Michigan) — certainly help, but more than anything McCaffrey said he learned how to work hard by watching his older brothers do it. He’s also friends with current Huskers and Colorado natives JoJo Domann, Jack Stoll, Eric Lee Jr. and Tate Wildeman. He’s heard about the importance of those intangible things from all of them too.
McCaffrey said he felt like Nebraska was looking for his dual-threat quarterback ability but they were more enamored with his work ethic.
“[Verduzco] really, I think, saw somebody that’s willing to buy into a system and buy into a program,” he said. “They’re definitely looking for a guy that can throw and run and make some plays happen, but more importantly, just looking for a hard-working leader and that’s something I’d love to step into and embrace.”
When his senior season begins, McCaffrey will get the reins of the offense with his father at the controls. He said he’s expecting a break-out year. When he gets to Nebraska, he’s happy to do what the coaching staff asks of him. He learned a while ago to enjoy every moment he gets. As for right now?
“It’s a good day to be a Husker.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.