It may seem hard to fathom now, but there was a time when Stanford's offense, and Christian McCaffrey in particular, couldn't move the ball. That time lasted exactly one game, to be fair, but it happened nonetheless.
Opening the 2015 season at Northwestern, the Cardinal authored a 16-6 dud in which McCaffrey rushed 12 times for only 66 yards and even caught five passes for 23 yards. He even lost eight yards on his only punt return. As told in his first-person essay on The Players' Tribune, McCaffrey shared how the turning point of the season came after the loss:
It was the first game I ever started in college and I was excited to show what I could do. But we just couldn’t do anything right. By the time the game was over, we had put six points on the board. Six points. On national television. And I felt like I was partly responsible.
What Kevin said didn’t matter nearly as much as how he said it.
This was supposed to be the start of a big season, and now it seemed like it might already be over.
While I was sitting there, Kevin Hogan, our senior quarterback, walked by and saw me. He stopped and sat down.
The 2015 season was Kevin’s last at Stanford. Out of everybody on the team, I figured he might be the most upset.
But he was smiling. He asked me what was on my mind.
I explained how I was worried about letting my teammates down, and how I felt that I could’ve performed better in our first game.
He put his arm around my shoulder.
“We’re going to be fine, man,” he said. “We have one of the best offenses in the nation and you’re a big part of that. But you can’t harp on this. Not at all. We’re going to need you going forward.”
Those words … they’re so simple. But what Kevin said didn’t matter nearly as much as how he said it. I could tell that he believed in me. And that was all I needed.
You know what happened next.
The Cardinal ripped off wins in 12 of their next 13 games -- Stanford is 17-2 in its last 19 games overall -- became the only team in college football to score 30 or more in every game over the rest of the season while McCaffrey set the FBS record for all-purpose yardage.
And McCaffrey credits it in part to that conversation with his quarterback.
The entire essay is a good read -- it'll leave you even more shake-your-head impressed at how well-rounded McCaffrey is -- and provides a good example for your players. Check it out.