When the Carolina Panthers picked Christian McCaffrey eighth overall in last month’s draft, much was made of McCaffrey’s strong football lineage.
But there are NFL legacies dotting the Panthers’ roster.
McCaffrey is one of two Carolina rookies whose fathers preceded them in the NFL. Ed McCaffrey won three Super Bowls as a rangy receiver during a 13-year career.
Undrafted defensive lineman Bryan Cox Jr.’s dad played 12 seasons, making three Pro Bowls, winning a Super Bowl and donating $150,000 to former commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s charitable causes in the form of fines.
They join a handful of returning Panthers’ players who grew up around the game, thanks to their dads.
Ryan and Matt Kalil used to do offensive line drills led by their dad, Frank Kalil, a center who was in training camp with Buffalo before playing several seasons in the USFL.
Defensive end Larry Webster’s father, also named Larry, played 11 years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl ring with Baltimore in 2001.
Cam Newton’s dad, Cecil, didn’t make an active roster. But he tried out for the Cowboys after wrapping up his college career at Savannah State.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he likes having former players’ sons on the roster for the same reason he likes having players, such as tight end Greg Olsen, whose dads were coaches: They understand the game.
“They’ve been around it most of their lives and I think that really helps when it’s time to compete,” Rivera said recently. “They’re really all about it because they’ve been around it so much.”
And the downside?
“That they’ve been around it so much,” Rivera said.
“At some point it could be a burden. Guys might want to get away from it for a little bit. I always think it’s a plus, that you have a guy that either the mother or father competed at a very high level.”
Bryan Cox Sr., the former NFL linebacker and assistant coach, said the children of ex-players usually have access to the best training facilities and have fathers who understand how to be well positioned for the college recruiting and NFL pre-draft processes.
McCaffrey, whose brother Max is a Packers receiver, says he wasn’t old enough to appreciate his father’s career – at least while Ed McCaffrey was still active.
”I was born in ’96. He retired in ’03. So I was like 5 or 6 when he retired,” Christian McCaffrey said. “I remember little glimpses, but not a whole lot.”