In only his second year at the position, wide receiver Luke McCaffrey was a gamebreaker for this team and a surefire pick for our 2023 Rice Football Offensive Player of the Year.
For as much as he may have been able to rely on his innate athleticism and find instant success, Rice football wide receiver Luke McCaffrey would never be content with a singular standout season.
After transitioning from quarterback to pass catcher before the 2022 season, McCaffrey was learning on the fly as he posted a team-leading 58-reception season with a team-best 903 all-purpose yards all while missing the last few games of the regular season. McCaffrey’s beginnings as a wide receiver set the stage for a stellar senior season.
“Every rep is gold, from an experience standpoint. Being able to go through a whole season, being able to go through a spring ball, fall camp and another spring ball and this year, capping it off with another great month of training is so helpful,” McCaffrey said on the cusp of the 2023 campaign. “From a preparation standpoint, [I feel] better than I ever felt.”
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Following a quiet start in the Owls’ opening game against Texas, McCaffrey turned those positive offseason feelings into game-changing production. His helmetless touchdown grab against rival Houston in Week 2 earned him Pop-Tarts “Crazy Good” Play of the Week honors and helped propel the Owls past the Cougars for the first time since 2010.
“I don’t know that he has an easy catch,” head coach Mike Bloomgren would later joke. “He certainly doesn’t have an easy touchdown catch on the year. Every one’s contested, his helmet is coming off, someone’s poking him in the eye. It’s crazy.”
McCaffrey would build on those theatrics with a career-best 199-yard game against USF, mixing in seven yards on the ground to go above 200 total yards for the day. Week after week, McCaffrey continued to raise the bar.
The senior receiver would only continue to heat up from there. Beginning with a two-touchdown day against UConn, McCaffrey would register nine touchdowns in the final eigth games of the season. His second half score in the Owls’ regular season finale against FAU would put Rice ahead for good, clinching a sixth win and back-to-back bowl game appearances.
All that, in just his second year playing the position.
“There’s usually a drop off somewhere,” offensive coordinator Marques Tuiasosopo said of McCaffrey’s ascendance. “But he was lights out really… He was locked in, focused. He kept pushing. That to me is what puts him in that upper echelon.”
Eight yards shy of a 1,000-yard season, McCaffrey has accepted an invitation to the East-West Shrine Bowl and is off to the NFL. In just two years, he’s climbed into the top 10 in several all-time program-receiving ranks. With a touchdown in the SERVPRO First Responders bowl, he has clinched the third most touchdown receptions in program history. He ranks ninth in yards and 10th in receptions.
Three years ago, McCaffrey committed to Rice football with aspirations to play quarterback. He leaves South Main as one of the most productive wide receivers the school has ever seen. McCaffrey was a team captain and a leader, someone his teammates and the entire coaching staff leaned on in big moments. Time and time again, he delivered.
“We talk about Luke McCaffrey so much, and we don’t talk about him enough,” Bloomgren said upon the conclusion of McCaffrey’s final regular season game against FAU. “I think that couldn’t be more true. The impact that he has on our team and the player that he is. I feel so blessed to be able to work with him.”
** Photo credit: Mara Lysaker **
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