For Duke WR, competing is in his blood

Max McCaffrey’s Duke family tree has more branches than the federal government.

His grandfather, Dave Sime, was an All-ACC outfielder who led Duke in batting average, home runs and stolen bases. He won 12 ACC titles in track, was an All-American, and set seven world records. He played one season of football as a wide receiver and went on to win a silver medal in the 100-meter dash in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Oh, and he found time to graduate from Duke’s medical school in 1962.

And that’s just gramps.

McCaffrey’s grandmother, Betty Conroy, graduated from Duke in 1959. His uncle, Scott Sime, lettered in four seasons (1981-84) as a fullback at Duke before graduating in 1986. Another uncle, Billy McCaffrey, lettered two seasons (1990-91) in basketball at Duke.

And that was just at Duke.

McCaffrey’s dad, Ed, was an All-American receiver at Stanford and went on to play 13 years in the NFL. His mother, Lisa, earned three letters in soccer at Stanford. Oh, and aunt Monica lettered four seasons in hoops at Georgetown.

That must make for some family picnic.

“I guess it’s a pretty competitive family,” Max said.

There’s no question he has inherited the trait.

“Oh, man, Max McCaffrey has opened up every single person’s eyes here,” Duke quarterback Anthony Boone said. “I don’t know if he wants me to say this, but he came out a little bit of a fighter, like he’s not gonna back down from nobody. He’s been making a lot of plays. He’s our blue-collar guy. He’s going to work. Even when he’s tired, he’s going to push through. He’s smart, he knows what he’s doing, and he’s tough. He’s going to stick his nose in there in the run game. Even if he gets smacked and hits the ground, he’s going to get back up and try and push the guy a little extra. He’s a hard-nosed player and he’s really stepped up and shined bright for us this spring. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do this year in the ACC.”

Despite his remarkable pedigree, there’s no pressure from McCaffrey’s family to be the next All-American wide receiver. There is, however, a wee bit of pressure on Duke’s receivers to fill the void left by record-setter Conner Vernon, who closed out his career as the ACC’s all-time leader in pass receptions and receiving yardage. McCaffrey only caught two passes last year, but he's proven more than worthy this spring of stepping in opposite Jamison Crowder, who started all 13 games last year and had five 100-yard games. Crowder is poised to be the next go-to player, but McCaffrey will be equally important in keeping defenses honest.

“He’s had a great spring,” said offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. “I think the thing that I like the best about him is he’s an unbelievable competitor. He’s a guy who, every day -- it doesn’t matter if you’re at the beginning of practice or the end of practice -- his effort level is the same. His competitiveness is the same. I don’t think I really understood how tough he was, but he’s a tough guy, too, so he can make the contact area catches. He doesn’t mind mixing it up when he has to block in the run game. I can’t say I’m shocked by how well he’s doing. I obviously couldn’t be happier about it, because we need him to step up in a big way. I think spring is about getting guys game ready, not about beating your defense, and I think Max is ready to play on Saturday, quite frankly.”

McCaffrey, a sophomore, caught two passes for 31 yards against Florida State last year and played a total of 196 snaps in 13 games. He said he knows more will be expected of him this fall. At a scrimmage earlier this month, McCaffrey caught five passes for a team-high 76 yards.

“Last year just getting a little bit of experience was awesome, but this year I definitely need to step it up,” he said. “I’ve been working real hard this spring just perfecting the offense, learning coverages on defense, just being able to read the coverages, and I’ve been trying to get a lot stronger and faster, just working on basic fundamentals of the game.”

He’s already mastered the competitive part. After all, it’s in his genes.