The San Francisco 49ers are sending second-, third- and fourth-round picks in 2023 and a fifth-round pick in 2024 to the Carolina Panthers for star running back Christian McCaffrey, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Thursday night.

The deal gives San Francisco the offensive playmaker needed to compete for a Super Bowl. It also gives McCaffrey a chance to be on a winning team for the first time since his rookie season in 2017 when Carolina went 11-5 and return to the Bay Area where he starred in college at Stanford.

When healthy, McCaffrey is one of the best dual threats in the NFL. In 2019, he became only the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. His 670 yards from scrimmage -- a team-leading 393 yards rushing and team-leading 33 catches for 277 yards -- this season rank fourth in the NFL.

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"I'm forever grateful for all of the people who have helped make these past 5 1/2 years so special for me," McCaffrey posted to Twitter on Friday morning. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Carolina, I will always love you."

Injuries have been the biggest issue for the former Stanford star. He missed 23 of 33 games during the 2020 and 2021 seasons after being injury-free his first three NFL seasons. He spent time this past offseason talking to Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, who had some of his most productive seasons beginning in Year 6, about what workout and diet practices could help keep him on the field.

Speculation the Panthers (1-5) might move on from McCaffrey, 26, began after coach Matt Rhule was fired the Monday after the team fell to 1-4 with a 37-15 loss to the 49ers. According to a non-Panthers front-office source, Carolina was initially asking for two first-round draft picks.

The Panthers announced the move Thursday night and thanked McCaffrey in a tweet. Carolina did not disclose compensation from San Francisco.

A dejected McCaffrey said, "All I want to do is win,'' following Sunday's 24-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams that dropped the Panthers to 1-5. Now he'll have his chance.

Know Your South Dakota College and University Mascots

The college football experience is an ultimate high for football fans and it takes several other teams to make that happen week after week during the season.
Just think about what goes into gameday? First and foremost, the players and coaching staff who put in hours and hours of practice and training to play in front of their fans. Then there's field prep, game officials, live broadcasts, concessions, and on-the-field entertainment. Yep, entertainment.

Second to the game, who do you watch? The cheerleaders? The band at halftime? What about the mascot? That's a job not many people can do.
I asked Sioux Falls native and former Cagey mascot for the Sioux Falls Canaries and Little Red & Herbie for the Nebraska Huskers Nate Welch about being a mascot:

  • What does it take to be a mascot?
  • "Losing a bet or filling an opportunity!" Welch says, "An internal energized desire to love life. After meeting great performers who are introverts out of costume, they become the center of attention when they take the stage. And also feeding off the performance of others."
  • Why does the mascot never talk?
  • "Know your role and shut your mouth. You are there to entertain. Tell the story with your actions and not your voice."
  • Advice to someone putting on that costume for the first time?
  • "Remember you are now in a costume. Have fun. Otherwise, you're just a dork in tights. If the fur ain't flying you ain't trying."

Nate Welch has moved on from his days as a mascot to Executive Director of the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company in Vermillion, South Dakota.

So, can you name the mascots at our South Dakota Colleges and Universities? Check out the gallery below:

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