Christian McCaffrey is done playing college football even though Stanford has one more game.
The star running back wants to prepare for the draft and said on Twitter on Monday he will not play in the Sun Bowl. The No. 16 Cardinal (9-3) face North Carolina (8-4) on Dec. 30 in El Paso.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott said that wouldn’t be his decision in weighing in on the subject. And Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, an Arlington Martin grad, said in a statement, “I plan to practice today and prepare to play in the bowl game with my teammates.”
A&M plays Kansas State in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 28.
Garrett is a junior who has not declared for the 2017 NFL Draft but is the potential No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns.
LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who has nursed injuries all season, announced last week that he would be skipping LSU’s bowl game against Louisville.
“Very tough decision, but I have decided not to play in the Sun Bowl so I can begin my draft prep immediately,” McCaffrey said. He thanked his teammates for their support. “It means a lot to me. Go Cardinal!”
Stanford receiver Trenton Irwin posted on Twitter: “The whole team supports [at]CMccaffrey5 in everything and anything. Hes been a leader to this team through the easy times and tough times.”
“I would do anything to play one more time with my brothers in that scarlet and gray,” Elliott posted on Twitter about players sitting out bowl games.
Elliott relented because of the injury factor but re-emphasized how much playing for Ohio State meant to him.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked about potential high NFL draft picks skipping bowl games possibly having stemmed from the injury Notre Dame and current Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered against Ohio State, Elliott’s team, in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1.
Smith slipped from a potential top-10 draft pick to the second round of last year’s draft when the Cowboys surprisingly selected him. Smith will miss the entire 2016 season as he recovers from knee surgery and nerve damage.
“Yes, and until you pointed that out I really hadn’t even looked at it,” Jones said during a news conference to promote a boxing card at The Star in Frisco. “So there’s been no real substance to anybody saying we’ve got a few top guys that, just like some of them won’t run at the combine or being that strategic about their draft process or where they are in the draft. I haven’t heard anything like that from anybody in scouting or that group in the NFL.”
McCaffrey said last month he would be skipping his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. He was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2015 as a sophomore when he set the NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a season.
“For three years Christian has not only been a great player, but a great teammate as well,” Stanford coach David Shaw said in a statement. “We wish him great success at the next level, as we continue our preparation for the Sun Bowl.”
This season, McCaffrey missed a game against Notre Dame with an undisclosed injury, but finished the season strong. He had at least 135 yards rushing in his final five games and finished the season with 1,603 yards on the ground and 13 touchdowns.
“I don’t think it takes away from the fact we’ve still got two pretty good football teams that are going to play,” Sun Bowl executive director Bernie Olivas said. “Yeah, it would have been great to have a prolific runner like Christian McCaffrey going against a prolific passer like [North Carolina quarterback] Mitch Trubisky, but I totally understand where he’s coming from. I still hope he makes the trip and enjoys the festivities we have for the teams.”
Trubisky, a junior, is still considering whether to come back for another college season. He would be one of the top quarterback prospects in the draft if he does leave early.
“I think it’s smart on their part, because it’s different when you’re a running back and you’re taking all the shots. So for them to just prep for the NFL, I respect it because they’re making the decision that’s best for them in their career,” Trubisky said. “Just based on what I’m going through with my decision, I know they just didn’t make that decision. There’s probably a lot of thought process that goes in behind that.”
The 6-foot, 200-pound McCaffrey has been one of the busiest ball carriers in college football over the last two seasons. He has 672 touches from scrimmage (590 rushes, 82 receptions) and another 76 kick and punt returns.
With McCaffrey gone, Bryce Love will likely get most of the carries for Stanford against North Carolina. The sophomore from Wake Forest, North Carolina, ran for 664 yards and 7.4 per carry this season. He had 129 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame, when McCaffrey was out.
“They’re not going to change what they do,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said about Stanford. “They’re going to run the ball and pound it at you and play-action pass you.”
This article includes information from The Associated Press.