Photo credit: Dave Dugdale

NFL Player’s Quick Response Helps Save Hiker’s Life

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey and a group of friends tended to a hiker after his 20-foot fall onto treacherous rocks.

Dan Smoker Sr. was on a hike with his grandson, Eli, in Castle Rock, Colo. Saturday when things took a horrible turn. Smoker, 72, fell 20 feet onto rock below.

Dan Smoker Sr. and Eli Smoker

“It felt like he was in the air for 10 seconds,” McCaffrey told He was also hiking in Castle Rock when he saw Smoker’s fall. “I had never seen anything quite like that in my life as far as the trauma and the sound. We were in shock.”

According to McCaffrey’s account, his group jumped into action. McCaffrey called 911 while his friend, Michael Mann, and an onlooker rushed to Smoker. Then, McCaffrey said he held Smoker’s head still, and that Mann at one point performed chest compressions when Smoker’s breathing stopped.

Their quick response kept Smoker alive until paramedics arrived. Smoker made it to the hospital, where doctors describe him as in critical but stable condition.

NFL Running Back Aids Fallen Hiker

“I credit them with saving my dad’s life,” Smoker’s son, Dan, told of McCaffrey’s group.

Castle Rock, photo credit: Dave Dugdale

According to the report, Smoker suffered numerous injuries: broken femur, broken pelvis, internal bleeding, bleeding on the brain, nine fractured ribs, and a broken neck.

Dan, who was celebrating his 15th wedding anniversary in San Diego that day, said he received a call from Eli to tell him what was happening.

“My dad is laying there, and there is nothing I can do for him,” Dan said. “And my son is there freaking out, and there’s nothing I can do for him. It was the worst experience, both as a father and as a son.”

But Smoker survived. And in a series of Tweets, Dan credits Mann, McCaffrey, and their fellow hikers.

For his part, McCaffrey said he was “lucky to be at the right place at the right time.” And he gave praise to the paramedics for a quick response and keeping Smoker alive.

“Everybody stepped up,” McCaffrey said. ““I called 9-1-1, and it felt like an eternity. It felt like we were up there waiting for four hours. But I looked back at my call log and it took 11 minutes before the paramedics came. Amazing what those guys did.”

A day after the incident, Mann, McCaffrey, and his brother, Max, visited the Smoker family at the hospital. That’s when Dan realized who had helped save his father’s life.

“They introduced themselves and I still hadn’t pieced it together,” Dan said. “I can’t say I’d recognize Christian without his football gear on.”

McCaffrey told he’s still texting Eli to check on Smoker’s condition. He’s hopeful Smoker will pull through and expects the events “could be a lifelong bond” between the two families.

Adam Ruggiero

Adam Ruggiero is the editor-in-chief of GearJunkie and a fan of virtually all sports and activities. From biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming — if it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.