<p>Ed McCaffrey was already well established as a veteran player and fan favorite in Denver when he got a new receivers coach in 2000.</p><p>Karl Dorrell was a decade into his coaching career when he was hired by the Denver Broncos that year, but that was his first opportunity in the NFL. His top two receivers – Broncos greats McCaffrey and Rod Smith – forced him to be on his game.</p><p>“I had to know what I was talking about,” Dorrell said. “I had to make sure I studied a little bit harder than they did so that I could answer some questions that they had.”</p><p>
For three years, from 2000-02, Dorrell tried to bring out the best in McCaffrey, while McCaffrey did the same for Dorrell.
On Friday, the two will go against each other for the first time, as Dorrell, now the head coach at Colorado, will lead the Buffaloes against the McCaffrey’s Northern Colorado Bears. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Folsom Field in what will be McCaffrey’s college coaching debut.Dorrell and McCaffrey haven’t kept in close contact over the years, but have mutual respect for one another after their time in Denver.“I have so much respect for him as a coach,” McCaffrey said. “We have similar styles. He’s very humble, very hardworking, very intelligent. I loved playing for him and I’m really excited for the success he’s had as a coach, as Pac-12 coach of the year (in 2020). I was excited for him last year. A lot of respect for coach Dorrell. He’s doing a phenomenal job with the Buffs.”One of the best receivers in Broncos history, McCaffrey played in Denver from 1995 until his retirement after the 2003 season. He helped the Broncos win two Super Bowls and his best statistical season with Dorrell as his coach in 2000. That year, McCaffrey caught 101 passes for 1,317 yards. (Smith had the two best seasons of his career with Dorrell as his coach).“He was incredibly smart,” McCaffrey said of Dorrell. “He knew the whole offense. He just happened to be coaching receivers. His drill work was phenomenal. We worked a lot on footwork and different route concepts with him that were different from what I had done in the past. Also just his demeanor; very professional demeanor. He’s all business, but he’s very polite and loves what he’s doing and respects the people that he’s working with. That’s something that I’ve remembered and tried to emulate.”Dorrell enjoyed coaching the man he’ll square off against this Friday.“I know what kind of guy he is,” Dorrell said. “He’s very detailed, very passionate, very competitive. Don’t let his mild manner, in terms of his persona, fool you. He’s an extremely competitive guy, and he’s smart. He’ll get his team ready to play. … I’ve got to make sure our guys ready to play.”
The Buffs are heavily favored against the Bears, who play in the Football Championship Subdivision. And, for McCaffrey, it will be a new experience coaching in a college game for the first time. But, Dorrell has no doubt his former pupil will be successful.“I know that he can ascend in this profession,” Dorrell said. “The reason why he’s on that road to ascension is because of his playing style. … He was what you would expect most great players to be. He and Rod Smith were very similar qualities that way. It was a lot of fun on my part.”While McCaffrey has done a lot of coaching over the years, his highest level of experience before now came in two seasons (2018-19) at Valor Christian High School. McCaffrey did, however, coach four sons into becoming Division I players. Max, now UNC’s offensive coordinator, played receiver at Duke; Christian played running back at Stanford and is now a star with the Carolina Panthers; Luke played quarterback at Nebraska and has since transferred to Rice, and Dylan was a Michigan quarterback who is now leading UNC.“There was a lot of teaching that was going on in the McCaffrey household and then they obviously extended it when they went to those separate universities,” Dorrell said. “(Coaching) is a part of his fabric, so I believe this is a great profession for him, and he’ll do a great job. I just don’t want it to happen on Friday.”McCaffrey said former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan, Dorrell and others from his career have been mentors as he embarks on a new challenge at the college level.“I’m always looking to learn and to grow,” he said. “I don’t expect to be the best coach that I can be today or tomorrow. And hopefully, with more experience and more opportunity, just like a player who’s developing, I’ll be able to develop as a coach.“(Dorrell) has had a positive impact on my playing career and now in my coaching career.”