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Inside Luke McCaffrey's switch to wide receiver


Luke McCaffrey was about halfway through his college career when he began having a moment of self-reflection.

McCaffrey, who played for Nebraska during his freshman and sophomore seasons, was on a fine path as a quarterback. He played eight games during the 2020 season, including two starts under center, completing 48-of-76 passes for 466 yards with 364 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. He transferred to Rice in 2021, and had he stayed at quarterback, there was a chance he could have been the Owls' starter in due time.

But McCaffrey wanted to do things on the field that weren't always feasible for his position. He wanted to hit people and make plays all over, not just from the pocket. Having that kind of impact required a position change, and since Rice had a need at wide receiver, McCaffrey's coaches decided to give him a shot.

It was a move that led to success for McCaffrey and Rice.

"I had a lot of fun," McCaffrey told Bryan Colbert Jr. on an episode of Raising Hail with the Rookies. "I think it kind of took a weight off my shoulders."

McCaffrey certainly possessed the athletic traits to pull off a position change. Yes, he's related to Christian McCaffrey, whose versatility is well-known in the NFL, but Luke has also flaunted a similar level of flexibility throughout his playing career. He averaged 7.2 yards per carry in five seasons, scoring seven touchdowns along the way.

Still, it would have been hard to predict that Luke would end up being an instant fit in his new position. He caught 58 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns in 2022, leading the team in all-purpose yards. The next season, he improved on his stats even further, ranking fourth in the AAC in catches and fifth in yards. He grabbed 13 touchdowns, which ranks fifth all-time at Rice and is tied for eighth most in conference history.

Football is football, McCaffrey said, so there are some things that stay the same, no matter the position. One habit that he picked up from his days as a quarterback that did help his transition to receiver was film study.

"Because you speak the same language as a quarterback or the same language as a coordinator," McCaffrey said. "That's probably the biggest thing I've been able to take from my quarterback days."

The Washington Commanders were in full pads and uniforms for the team's 2024 Media Day. Take a look at some of the highlights from the day.

The Commanders were so impressed with McCaffrey that they used the 100th overall pick -- the last of the third round -- to take McCaffrey, despite there being more experienced receivers on the board. However, while they might have had more games under their belt, few of them were as productive.

"He took a road less traveled where he started off as a quarterback and really taught himself how to be one of the best receivers in the country in the last two years," said general manager Adam Peters. "And so he's got size, he's got speed, he's got great movement skills, and I think he's only going to ascend."

McCaffrey has only been in the NFL for about two months, but it seems like Peters' prediction is coming true in real-time. He was one of the clear standouts during the offseason workout program, showing exceptional precision in his routes and reliable hands. He also spent extra time with first-round pick Jayden Daniels by arriving at the facility at 5:45 a.m. to get extra work in with the quarterback.

Striving for improvement is par for the course for McCaffrey.

"When you're a competitor, you're always trying to get better,' McCaffrey said. "So, I think if you were to ask anybody in the league...they always have the mindset of 'you need to get better. You need to compete. You need to keep grinding.'

"And so, I don't know if you'll ever be as good as you want to be. I think you're always chasing that perfection. You never quite get there, but you're always setting that standard and trying to reach it."

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