In the “Revisiting the Breakout” series, The Daily Pennsylvanian takes a look back at some of the athletes that burst on the scene for the Quakers in 2019. Due to COVID-19, these breakout players, along with the rest of their teammates, sat on the sidelines in 2020 after the Ivy League canceled fall and winter sports. Now, with the 2021 fall athletics season around the corner, this series looks to check in with these athletes as they get ready to build on their standout 2019 campaigns.
Penn sprint football is going to look a bit different this fall. For the first time in fifty seasons, the Red and Blue will not have legendary head coach Bill “Wags” Wagner on the sidelines for its games. The team will also be without 2019 CSFL Player of the Year, quarterback Eddie Jenkins.
The team will, however, have second team All-CSFL wide receiver, Brendan McCaffrey. The rising-senior wideout was the Quakers’ leading receiver in both yards and receptions in 2019, and he finished second on the team in touchdown receptions. The Commack, N.Y. native’s breakout didn’t come out of nowhere – he finished second on the team in receiving yards during his freshman season. But greater opportunity in his sophomore year allowed him to transform from a playmaker into one of Penn’s best offensive weapons.
“I worked hard my first year, but obviously when you first step on the team as a freshman and it’s a fall sport, you only have so much time to prove yourself,” McCaffrey said. “So, the second [season] came around … [and] I got a little more opportunity [and] a little more responsibility [that] the coaches put on me, and I’m someone that likes the responsibility to be on my back.”
McCaffrey was unable to continue taking advantage of his opportunity on the field, as Penn sprint football was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. While the missed season was disappointing for everyone involved, it was especially frustrating for McCaffrey, who had big plans for the Quakers’ 2020 season.
Instead of letting the time go to waste, however, McCaffrey sought to make the most of the extra months without football.
“It was definitely frustrating to be off for the year,” McCaffrey said. “But, you know, stuff like that happens. We can only really worry about what we have control over, so what we did is just take that time to train that much harder. [I] made it my responsibility to make sure that, for the final season I have, I’m going to make sure I come out and do something I know I’m capable of.”
Specifically, the receiver focused on adding strength and speed to his game, both of which should help him when facing down CSFL defensive backs this year.
“From a strength perspective, [I’m] definitely getting much stronger, and [I] gained weight,” McCaffrey said. “At the same time, I feel like I’ve been getting faster, quicker … [I] can jump higher. I’ve been working on dunking a basketball now and finally got that. Overall, [I'm] just trying to come out as a specimen for next season.”
McCaffrey has spent the past year and a half doing everything he can to be ready to play his part as one of Penn sprint football’s on-field stars and locker room leaders. On a team that has many new faces, McCaffrey’s experience will be a welcome familiarity.
Despite the many changes in personnel, McCaffrey believes the Quakers are right where they need to be heading into 2021.
“We have a young quarterback, Andrew Paolini, and I’m excited for him,” McCaffrey said. “He’s looking really good, and he’s training as well. Coach McConnell has really stepped up since Wags stepped off. He has a lot of devotion to the program … I have respect for him, and I know that the program is in good hands with him.”
A full offseason of training and practicing with his teammates has set McCaffrey up for a solid comeback, as he looks to replicate the success of his 2019 campaign. The senior is likely to be one of Paolini’s favorite targets and figures to play a large role in the Quakers’ march toward the CSFL title.
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