Carolina Panthers

Could a former teammate of RB Christian McCaffrey be a Carolina Panthers draft pick?

Stanford running back Bryce Love on former teammate and good friend Christian McCaffrey

Running back Bryce Love talks about Panthers' McCaffrey.
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Running back Bryce Love talks about Panthers' McCaffrey.

There already is a potential nickname in place: “McLovin.’”

Sure, that’s the name of a character in Judd Apatow’s famous comedy “Superbad.”

But it’s also the name of a former running back tandem at Stanford, and one that could be a very real possibility in Charlotte, too.

Stanford running back Bryce Love and Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey used to be Cardinal teammates, and remain good friends. Love said he thinks Stanford fans gave them the nickname “McLovin’” when they were a two-back duo in 2015 and 2016.

At the 2019 NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Thursday, Love lit up when asked about McCaffrey.

“That’s my guy!” he said. “At the end of the day, I learned so much from him when he was up at Stanford. Even watching how he’s handling it out in Charlotte — he’s a great guy, a great leader and a great mentor. I’m thankful for him.

“He’s still C-Mac to us. He’s always giving advice, talking about enjoying the moment and taking it one day at a time. And that is what I’m doing.”

Picturing Love as a Panthers draft pick is kind of perfect. Or at least, he thinks so.

“I’d be excited for it, being able to share the field with him,” he said of McCaffrey, who left Stanford after his junior year, then was drafted by the Panthers at No. 8 overall in 2017.

“I feel like we left a lot of unfinished business at the college level, and I feel like it would be good at the next level as well.”

Love is a North Carolina native — a product of Wake Forest High School, to be exact — and the Panthers love their local products.

Love earned a human biology degree at Stanford (let that sink in for a moment), and hopes to become a pediatrician when his football career eventually ends. Carolina loves smart players with interests outside of football, and they have historically found themselves particularly lucky in that regard at running back with well-rounded stars like McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.

Love, as a junior, finished second in Heisman voting in 2017 after rushing for 2,118 yards. That year, he also won the Doak Walker award, which is given to the nation’s best running back. He could’ve been a top draft prospect that spring, had he decided to enter early. But he opted to finish his degree, staying at Stanford through an injury-plagued 2018 season that hit bottom with an ACL tear on the final play of Stanford’s final regular-season game.

But he’s optimistic about his recovery and said Thursday that he has no regrets about choosing to stay in school one more season.

“People who aren’t necessarily around the game, to an extent, it’s kind of difficult (to understand),” he said. “But at the end of the day, all of my teammates understand that. Everybody who needs to understand that understands.”

Because he said his timetable for return is not until the middle of NFL training camps in August, Love could fall to a pick that would be ideal for Carolina. The Panthers can’t select a running back in early rounds because of greater needs elsewhere.

All of that makes him feel like a great fit, and the idea of him rushing in tandem with McCaffrey is an exciting prospect to consider.

Plus, that nickname is pretty great.

Jourdan has covered the Carolina Panthers as a beat writer since 2016, and froze during Pennsylvania winters as an award-winning Penn State football beat writer before that. A 2014 graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, she’s on a never-ending quest for trick plays and the stories that give football fans goosebumps.

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