One of David Shaw's Stanford teammates from 25 years ago, Ed McCaffrey, happens to be the father of one of his star players, but that doesn't mean they've seen much of each other. Life seems to be moving too fast for the old friends to catch up.
"I haven't had a chance to talk to him," Shaw said. "He's always on an airplane."
Ed and his wife, Lisa, will enjoy a bit of a break this Saturday. But a "break" for them is a loaded weekend for anyone else, so Shaw might miss his fellow former Cardinal receiver yet again: Ed will have to fly to Indianapolis for his Sunday job as the Denver Broncos' radio color analyst.
At least the McCaffreys won't be navigating their typical weekend Amazing Race. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, one of Ed and Lisa's four football-playing sons (two are in high school, two are in college), was nice enough to give his parents a breather. Since Christian's Cardinal team is playing against Colorado in Boulder, the parents get to stay in the Denver area on a Saturday for once.
It's rarely that simple. Take last week: The couples' eldest son is Duke wide receiver Max McCaffrey. Ed and Lisa jetted to Durham, North Carolina, to catch the Blue Devils' soul-crushing, what-the-heck-just-happened, eight-lateral-kick-return loss to Miami. They returned to their hotel room, devastated, only to board another emotional roller coaster. Room service provided dinner as Christian's Stanford team outlasted Washington State in nail-biting fashion.
"A lot of times, you're only as happy as your most unhappy child," Ed said. "So we were nervous watching the Stanford game -- 'Oh my gosh, we have to win this or we'll be really bummed' -- and we were really excited when they won. But we were watching the game with Max, so we couldn't forget about how his game had just ended."
It was about 2 a.m. in the McCaffreys' hotel room when relief finally came: The Cardinal celebrated the Cougars' missed field goal at the final gun 2,630 miles away. A 5 a.m. wake-up call followed the family's brief yet slightly bittersweet celebration. Ed had to return to Denver in time to call Sunday's Broncos' game.
The parents power through a strong weekly effort, and it's not lost on their sons.
"Their support means the world to me," Christian said. "I know how hard it is with four boys. They sacrifice so much just to watch us. The best part is that they love to do it and never complain about it."
Well, there are some grumbles, but only when Ed and Lisa have to break a literal sweat to make their jam-packed itinerary work. Two weekends ago, they holed up in a hotel room in Palo Alto, California, to watch Max's Duke team beat Virginia Tech 45-43 in quadruple overtime. Because of all the pent-up energy that intense game created, Lisa felt the need to walk the three miles to Stanford Stadium for Christian's game. The Cardinal were set to host Washington later.
But that Duke victory happened to be the longest game in ACC history, so the parents realized they were behind schedule a mile into their walk. Lisa was in danger of not being able to give Christian her customary pregame hug.
"So I made Ed run," she said. "We were dressed in our warm clothes for a night game, but it was still 80 degrees at the time. We were sweating, running through town and tailgates. Not our best hour."
But the parents made it in the nick of time to wish Christian well. Once again, their speed had come through in the clutch. The representative theme of the McCaffrey family proved alive and well.
Ed was one of the fastest wide receivers in Stanford history, while Lisa played soccer for the Cardinal. Her father, David Sime, won a silver medal at the 1960 Olympics and held seven track-and-field world records during his career.
The family's propensity to release kinetic energy passed to the youngest generation. There are tales of young brothers Christian and Max McCaffrey running wild in the Broncos' locker room during Ed's playing days. There's even a picture in Sports Illustrated of 2-year-old Christian chasing Max in the confetti following Super Bowl XXXIII. Shannon Sharpe and Rod Smith, two Pro Bowlers on those Denver teams, saw the mayhem and frequently joked that Ed and Lisa "got together to breed fast white guys."
Lisa says Smith takes credit for that quote, one that seems to have come to fruition. The four McCaffrey boys are all indeed fast, and it's this continuation of family speed that's creating a circular effect: The parents must embrace a breakneck weekend lifestyle because of it.
Dylan McCaffrey, now a junior in high school, has begun taking recruiting trips, so Ed accompanied him to that bizarre Michigan State-Michigan finish last month. Luke McCaffrey is only a freshman, so it'll be a few more years before he also starts helping his parents rack up frequent-flier miles.
In short, the cycle is far from over. Not too long from now, Ed and Lisa might be tasked with bouncing between college and NFL stadiums on weekends, so their quickness could still be awaiting the ultimate test.
"It's fun and exhilarating," Ed said. "I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We live week to week. We pull ourselves back together on Monday and figure out what's next."
Fast travel and fast football. But what happens beyond the promise of McCaffrey family speed is anyone's guess.