Quick, name the last white running back to gain 1000 yards in a season. I’ll give you 3 seconds. 1..2..times up. If you’re like me it took a Google search to get the answer. There have been a few good white running backs in NFL history but only a small number has actually stood out. The Carolina Panthers grabbed Stanford RB, Christian McCaffrey with the No.8 pick in the First Round of the 2017 NFL Draft and the haters are already out.
The question now is– will McCaffrey be the next John Riggins or Peyton Hillis?
It’s a fair question considering the hype surrounding McCaffrey. He was a workhorse for Stanford the last two seasons as he rushed for 3,622 yards on 590 attempts with 21 rushing touchdowns. Forgetting to mention was his other duties as a receiver (82 catches) and Kick Returner (51). To say that Stanford leaned on this kid heavy would be an understatement. The Panthers saw something in him they liked and he should all but take over the starting position from Jonathan Stewart.
Stewart is on is last leg. He’s had a great career but he will be better served in a split backfield. The Panthers have tried to rest him with other backs but Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whitaker were not able to be consistent. As great as McCaffrey was in college, we’ve seen this before.
Remember Lawrence Phillips, Ron Dayne or Trent Richardson? There were backs that tore through the college ranks only to flame out in the NFL. However, the microscope will be locked on MaCaffrey, not solely based on skill but his skin color. It’s unfair but it’s the truth. The majority of RB’s in the NFL are African-American and with McCaffrey coming in, he may be the one to change the landscape.
It’s the same as Tiger Woods or Serena/Venus Williams changing the way we view Golf and Tennis. The last non-black RB to make a major impact was Peyton Hills with the Cleveland Browns back in 2010 when he rushed for 1177 yards, scored 13 touchdowns and caught 61 passes. Since then we’ve had a few white RB’s make a small dent but none as big as Hillis.
McCaffrey has a chance to change the stereotype that has been set on RB’s. The skills are there and so is the opportunity, but it’s up to him to seize the moment. Whether he believes it or not, he’s the new measuring stick for all white RB’s after him. It’s unfair but that’s what happens when you’re this good.