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Christian McCaffrey will be remembered as one of the all-time Stanford greats

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McCaffrey excited for next chapter in his career (0:30)

Christian McCaffrey thanks his teammates and coaches for his time at Stanford and says he is looking forward to the next chapter in his football career. (0:30)

STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford sports performance director Shannon Turley is not a fan of satisfaction. Complacency is a trap he vigorously tries to avoid, and he demands the same of Cardinal players.

That's not an easy trait to identify, especially during the recruiting process. Coaches must usually wait until players arrive on campus and respond to their first brutal conditioning sessions to get a precise gauge on attitude.

Christian McCaffrey, though, was an exception.

The first time Cardinal assistant Tavita Pritchard saw the star running back play live in high school, McCaffrey scored four touchdowns -- one rushing, one passing, one on a kick return and one taking back a punt.

"But he didn't score [a fifth touchdown], so he was pissed off after," Turley remembered. "So Tavita called me right away and said, 'You're going to like this guy.'"

Three years later, McCaffrey shot into the NCAA record book, breaking Barry Sanders' single-season record for all-purpose yardage during Stanford's 2015 Rose Bowl run.

"That," head coach David Shaw opined, "was the best singular year in the history of college football -- without debate."

And Pritchard's prophecy rang true: Turley did, indeed, like this guy. McCaffrey's voracious approach to both training and statistical production made him a Stanford favorite.

McCaffrey announced his intentions to enter the 2017 NFL draft on Wednesday, officially setting the Cardinal's Dec. 30 game against North Carolina in the Hyundai Sun Bowl as the conclusion of his college career.

"I'm ready," McCaffrey said. "My body is in the position it needs to be to play at the next level. Simply put, this is the best time to live out my dream."

It seems that the Stanford chapter of McCaffrey's career passed in the blink of an eye. The junior played in three seasons for the Cardinal, but his departure will come only two and a half years after he initially set foot on campus as a freshman in the summer of 2014.

These 30 months, though, have packed an electrifying punch. McCaffrey's exploits have reframed Stanford football: This is no longer the rugged-yet-plodding team of the past. While maintaining the same hard-nosed approach during cutthroat conditioning drills -- "He just wants to go kick your ass again," Turley said -- McCaffrey introduced a new dimension of sizzle, one that his speedy heir apparent, Bryce Love, is expected to continue.

"What he has done at Stanford is awe-inspiring," Shaw said. "You can put Christian in the same category as John Elway, Jim Plunkett and Andrew Luck."

More than anything, McCaffrey's stint on the Farm has delivered memories and mockeries of box scores that won't soon be replicated. Stanford teammates are quick to reminisce about his 97-yard punt return in the 2016 season opener against Kansas State, a play that was nullified by penalty, but in which McCaffrey escaped a rugby scrum and broke eight tackles.

In 2015, McCaffrey eclipsed 300 all-purpose yards in half of Stanford's games. He racked up 461 yards against USC -- 108 yards more than the Trojans' entire offense -- in the Cardinal's Pac-12 title game victory.

Then came the Rose Bowl against Iowa, when McCaffrey averaged 15.2 yards every time he touched the ball.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, McCaffrey's 6,191 all-purpose yards in the last two seasons are nearly 2,000 more than any other FBS player.

Even in this offensive-minded age of college football, McCaffrey has managed to be a statistical outlier.

About the only individual prize that eluded McCaffrey in his college career is the Heisman Trophy. He finished second to Alabama's Derrick Henry last year, becoming the fourth Heisman runner-up from Stanford in seven years.

That remains a gripe in Cardinal circles, but coaches also use the perceived snub to illustrate McCaffrey's reaction to disappointment -- and how they want that response to become the norm in the Stanford program.

"He still hasn't received the credit he's earned," Turley said. "But Christian doesn't waste time with disappointment. He's not going to waste any amount of effort on something that isn't going to empower him to be better. ... He just keeps putting a chip on his shoulder, turning everything negative into something positive and powerful for him."

In that way, McCaffrey has given Turley the ideal prototype of a successful mentality. It's a model that the coach can show to newcomers as he strives to keep Stanford constructed as a hungry team moving forward.

Though McCaffrey's actual time on campus might have come and gone in a 30-month blur, the Cardinal see his impact transcending highlight reels and record books.

"His legacy will live on here," Turley said. "He’s one of a kind. He’ll end up teaching me more over the long run of his career than I’ll teach him. His legend -- I’ll never let it die. He’ll be gone, but not forgotten."