“Mr. Everything” Luke McCaffrey Opens Up on College Football Journey

From QB to WR and Nebraska to Rice, Luke McCaffrey's college career was filled with twists and turns. At the NFL Combine, he recapped his journey.

The younger brother of San Francisco 49ers star RB Christian McCaffery, Luke McCaffrey is a standout athlete in his own right. Yet, his football career has taken more detours than his sibling’s. From quarterback to wide receiver and Nebraska to Rice, McCaffrey reflected on his college football journey at the 2024 NFL Combine.

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Luke McCaffrey’s Winding College Football Career

As a senior in 2018, his first year as the full-time starter, McCaffrey led Valor Christian to a 14-0 record and a Class 5A state championship. He threw for 2,202 yards, 21 touchdowns, and only four interceptions while picking up 526 yards and eight scores on the ground.

Listed as a four-star dual-threat QB, McCaffrey had no shortage of programs seeking his signature, including Michigan, Ohio State, and Washington. Yet, he chose Nebraska as his collegiate home, stating, “Lincoln is incredible, and on top of that, this staff is doing great things with what they are bringing to this historic program. They will give any player the best opportunity to succeed.”

After redshirting as a freshman, McCaffrey played in seven of eight games (starting two) in the truncated 2020 season, completed 48 of 76 passes for 466 yards, one TD, and six INTs. Although his passing stats left something to be desired, he did tack on 364 yards and three scores on 65 rushing attempts.

Still, with incumbent starter Adrian Martinez returning once again, McCaffrey decided to enter the transfer portal. He initially tabbed Louisville as his next destination, but Cardinals head coach Scott Satterfield announced that the signal-caller decided “this wasn’t the place for him.” After another brief stint on the open market, McCaffrey committed to the Rice Owls. 

The 2021 season produced more ups and downs in a limited QB role, and the following offseason, he spoke with head coach Mike Bloomgren about a possible switch. Speaking at the Combine, McCaffrey explained the decision:

“At Nebraska, I actually played some running back — some different packages like that. Never in my life was I ever asked to switch positions. … I mean, at the time, I was playing quarterback, and I was getting on the field. That was kind of my opportunity to help the team in that moment.”

McCaffrey took pride in his ability as a QB, and it took him time to commit to a full-time transition. “I brought up the idea of maybe doing it sometime in the future, knowing that was something that I enjoy doing — you know, those packages and playing running back and playing receiver,” he said.

“I eventually got to a point where I freed myself open to kind of just being a football player — I didn’t limit myself to not playing QB, but I talked with coach Bloomgren at Rice, and we talked about maybe playing free safety, maybe running back … being a gadget guy trying everything. Day 1 of spring ball, we were like, ‘Alright, let’s start with wide receiver.’ It ended up being a whole heck of a lot of fun — I just felt so natural, so free in doing that. I felt like I could really be myself.”

The move proved fruitful for both parties, with McCaffrey hauling in 129 passes for 1,715 yards and 19 touchdowns over the last two years. But the newly minted WR also benefitted off the field.

“Through that, I’ve learned to grow my love — which I didn’t know was possible — for the game of football at the time,” he explained. “So that was such a blessing, and I’m so thankful for coach Bloomgren, coach Marques Tuiasosopo — our offensive coordinator — coach [Mike] Kershaw … they did such a great job through that process of helping me as a player to just be confident in myself because they left that decision up to me.”

McCaffrey also credited QBs JT Daniels, Wiley Green, and TJ McMahon and the team’s WRs for smoothening his transition and accelerating his ability to produce as a wideout.

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In fact, just two years after making his position switch official, McCaffrey declared for the NFL Draft, attended the Senior Bowl, and put up impressive numbers at the Combine: 4.46 40-yard dash, 1.52 10-yard split (tied fourth among WRs), 36″ vertical, 10’1″ broad, 6.7 three-cone (second), 4.02 20-yard shuttle (first).

The Rice WR is currently the No. 134 overall prospect on PFN’s Big Board, but after his pre-draft performances, he’ll likely move up prior to April. He paved his own path to the pros, and in just a couple of months, he’ll continue the McCaffrey legacy in the NFL.

Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

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