CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- This weekend, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey reunited with the elderly man he helped rescue after a horrific hiking accident back in March 2018.
Dan Smoker Sr. and his family flew to Charlotte Friday to meet with the Panthers second-year running back. After the Smoker family arrived in the Queen City, McCaffrey treated them to a shopping spree at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
Dan Smoker Sr. also got a chance to take the field. His son Dan Smoker Jr. shared a video on Twitter of his father walking through the Panthers' tunnel.
The following day, McCaffrey introduced the Colorado family to some of his teammates, including quarterback Cam Newton and defensive end Julius Peppers.
From the photos shared by the Panthers' social media pages, the family appears to be in great spirits. But Dan Smoker Sr. has come a long way since he suffered serious injuries after the hiking accident.
The harrowing rescue:
Back in March, McCaffrey was out hiking with his brothers Dylan and Max and former Duke defensive lineman Michael Mann in Castle Rock, Colo., when they witnessed something traumatic: an elderly man falling 20 feet onto a rock.
"We turned the corner and as we turned the corner, it sticks with me pretty heavy," Christian McCaffrey said in June. "I look up and I see an older man and a younger kid."
"I heard what sounded like a slip of a shoe," said Eli, Dan Smoker Sr.'s grandson earlier in the year. "I turned around to see my grandfather fall to the ground."
The three McCaffrey brothers and Mann stepped in to help Smoker. The Carolina Panther dialed 911, Mann and another witness tended to Smoker, who had suffered serious injuries from the fall.
At one point, Mann said in the video he could see Dan Smoker Sr.'s eyes rolling towards the back of his head.
"I had my hand on his pulse the whole time," Mann said. "I won't ever forget, it basically stopped."
Paramedics eventually made it to the scene and were able to take over.
"Amazing what those guys did," Christian McCaffrey said of the paramedics back in March.
Dan Smoker Sr. suffered a broken femur, a broken pelvis, internal bleeding, bleeding on the brain, nine fractured ribs and a broken neck from the fall, according to the Panthers.
Dan Smoker Sr.'s son took to social media following the incident to thank the men for the heroic act.
A special bond:
Dan Smoker Sr. was eventually released from the hospital but had remained in touch with McCaffrey. Months after the horrific incident, McCaffrey and the Panthers surprised the Smoker family with game tickets and signed jerseys.
"When the [Panthers] said they were sending a gift basket, I thought it'd be some chocolates," Dan Smoker Jr. tweeted in May.
Fast-forward to September, McCaffrey and Dan Smoker Sr. met in-person once again. This time in Charlotte and in much better spirits, as the two embraced in a bear hug at the Charlotte sports store.
"Just the fact that he's standing on two legs and able to be here with his family means the world to me," McCaffrey said on the Panthers' website.
As the Panthers get ready to host the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday's Week 3 showdown will hold a special meaning for McCaffrey.
On Sunday, Dan Smoker Sr. and his family will head to Bank of America Stadium to watch McCaffrey and the Panthers in-person. McCaffrey said earlier in the year he looks forward to playing in front of the Smoker family.
"I think I'll definitely get a little extra adrenaline seeing them over there," McCaffrey said earlier in the year. "That's a family of fighters."
After an unforgettable weekend in the Queen City, look for Dan Smoker Sr. and his grandson Eli to cheer extra loud for McCaffrey at Bank of America Stadium.