GREEN BAY – With his rookie season drawing to a close, Max McCaffrey finally received the call he’d been waiting for his entire life on the eve of the NFC Championship Game.
The Packers, banged up at receiver, promoted the 6-foot-2, 200-pound rookie from the practice squad in case of emergency prior to their meeting with Atlanta at the Georgia Dome.
While Green Bay’s three questionable receivers – Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison – all played in the game, it still was a meaningful moment for McCaffrey to get the late call-up to the 53-man roster.
For an undrafted free agent who’d been on the Packers’ practice squad for a little more than a month, it signaled progress in his quest to follow in his father’s NFL footsteps.
“That’s what I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid – playing in the NFL,” McCaffrey said. “It was definitely an awesome experience and hopefully I can build off that. Really, what everyone is waiting for is to just get a chance.”
Now 23, Max is old enough to remember the tail end of his father’s playing career. A three-time Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowl receiver, Ed McCaffrey caught 565 passes for 7,422 yards and 55 touchdowns during his 13 NFL seasons.
Naturally, football always has been the sport of choice for Max and his three younger brothers: Christian, Dylan and Luke. Separated by only two years, Max and Christian starred on the Valor Christian (Colo.) High School football team during its run of five consecutive state championship.
Max went on to play at Duke, where he caught 117 passes for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Christian became a Heisman finalist during a record-breaking run at Stanford. Earlier this year, the Carolina Panthers drafted Christian with the eighth-overall pick.
As expected, the competition was always lively in the McCaffrey household growing up with Max and Christian constantly testing each other in the yard. It didn’t matter whether it was football, basketball or any other activity.
Over the years, however, that sibling rivalry forged a deep bond between the oldest of Ed and Lisa McCaffrey’s four sons, standing behind one another in every sport or venture.
“I loved playing with Christian. I still miss it,” Max said. “He’s kind of like my best friend. We’d always hang out. We were competitive, for sure. Anytime we were playing something, we both wanted to win really badly, but at the end of the day, he’s my brother.”
That’s what made this particular offseason even more meaningful to Max, who trained with Christian back in Colorado during the pre-draft process.
Christian went out of his way to credit his older brother for helping him prepare for the next level when addressing the media at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
“Max is my best friend in the whole world,” Christian said. “We were constantly playing one-on-one basketball or playing football, tearing up the yard, doing everything together pretty much. All his best friends were my best friends, and even still today, we go at it a little bit. He’s been an amazing influence in my life.”
Max has reaped the benefits of a full offseason in Green Bay. While McCaffrey impressed receivers coach Luke Getsy with how quickly he picked up the offense last winter, it wasn’t an easy task. There were only two weeks left in the regular season at the time McCaffrey signed to the practice squad.
McCaffrey had one former teammate, former Duke offensive lineman Lucas Patrick, showing him the ropes, but his Stanford connections also helped him beat the learning curve.
It just so happened three of Christian’s former teammates – running back Ty Montgomery, offensive lineman Kyle Murphy and linebacker Blake Martinez – all wound up in Green Bay.
“That makes it a lot easier transition coming in, knowing a few guys in the locker room,” McCaffrey said. “It’s not just coming into a completely brand-new area with people I don’t know.”
Christian’s introduction to the NFL was delayed temporarily due to rules prohibiting underclassmen from participating in NFL offseason programs until classes are over.
With Max enjoying his first summer in Green Bay, the family’s excitement hit fever pitch once Christian finally was able to participate in Carolina’s minicamp last month.
There are some more McCaffreys coming down the pipeline, as well. Max’s younger brother, Dylan, is a 6-foot-5 quarterback committed to playing at Michigan in 2017. The youngest brother, Luke, also has a scholarship offer on the table.
“I’ve played because I love football,” Max said. “I’m super supportive of what (Christian) has accomplished because he works his (butt) off and he gets what he puts in. I’m very proud of him. I love watching him play. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do with this next year.”
If Max happens to crack the Packers’ 53-man roster this year, there’s a chance he and his brother could play each other when the Packers travel to Carolina in Week 15.
First things first, Max knows he has work to do once the Packers reconvene for training camp at the end of the month. The roster boasts a deep receiving corps after adding two more rookies, DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre, to a room that’s already returning everyone from last season.
Still, McCaffrey favors his situation today compared to when he first came to Green Bay seven months ago.
“It’s a huge difference,” McCaffrey said. “I was on the practice squad, so it’s kind of weird. You just have to try to help the organization as much as possible. I tried to learn every play, learn everything and actually going through it and getting real reps with it (this offseason) has been very beneficial.”