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Bryce Love breaks through after learning in McCaffrey’s shadow

December 9, 2017 GMT

In his first two seasons, Heisman finalist Bryce Love played behind current Carolina Panther Christian McCaffrey.

Love, a former standout at Wake Forest High School, was a productive part of the Cardinal offense in 2015 and 2016 but still not the centerpiece. Waiting for his turn was an exercise in patience that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“I kind of knew going in that I had a lot to work on. It was just one of those things,” Love said. “I knew what to expect. I knew I’d be able to contribute, but I didn’t know necessarily where.”

When McCaffrey decided to sit out last year’s Sun Bowl against North Carolina, Love got the start and delivered 164 yards of total offense with a touchdown in the game. It was a great bridge leading into this season.

In his first year as the primary starter, Love broke the 1,000-yard mark in his first five games. Despite playing with a painful, high ankle sprain the last six games, he came close to 2,000 yards rushing for the season: those are McCaffrey numbers, more impressively, those are Heisman finalist numbers.

“I just wanted to be the best,” Love said. “More so than anything: the best at the position, the best in the country,” “I wanted to be the best that I could for my teammates. Ultimately, it’s led to this point.”

Carolina Panthers rookie McCaffrey has kept up with his former backfield mate’s big year.

“I shoot him a text every once in a while. I know he’s probably got a lot of texts coming through,” McCaffrey said. “I’m just really proud of the stuff he’s done, the way he’s handled himself, proud of him having some bum ankles and still having the season he’s having.

“He’s an unbelievable player, but to me what stands out is he’s an unbelievable character who’s just the salt of the Earth kind of human.”