May 22nd, 2024

No. 1 NFL draft pick Caleb Williams realizes all eyes are on him

By Andrew Seligman, The Associated Press on April 26, 2024.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) – Caleb Williams seemed unfazed by it all.

The former Southern California star was ready to embrace the attention after the Chicago Bears grabbed him with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. The prized quarterback knows all eyes are on him in a city craving a consistent winner. And to that, Williams said bring it on.

“I’m always going to have scrutiny,” he said at a news conference Friday, a day after the Bears drafted him. “I do things like paint my nails. I’m always going to have scrutiny over that. I wear funky clothes, things like that. So you know. Just do my job on the football field and win games. I think if you win a bunch of games here, you’ll make a lot of people, the majority, happy.”

The Bears have just three playoff appearances since the 2006 team advanced to the Super Bowl. And in two of them, they failed to advance. Chicago’s lone Super Bowl champion remains the 1985 team, but there’s certainly a buzz blowing through the Windy City.

The Bears look like they might be ready to turn a corner, after going a combined 10-24 in their first two seasons under general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus.

Chicago acquired six-time Pro Bowler Keenan Allen from the Los Angeles Chargers, giving it another top receiver to go with DJ Moore. The Bears added another potential playmaker at the position when they drafted all-American Rome Odunze of Washington at No. 9. But above all else, they think they have their franchise quarterback.

Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, has made no attempts to temper expectations. He said recently on The Pivot Podcast that he’s chasing Tom Brady’s record seven Super Bowl wins.

“What’s the reason to duck?” Williams said. “It’s here. There’s no reason to duck. I’m here. Rome’s here. Keenan Allen, the top-five defence that we had last year, special teams, all the new roles – whatever. We’re here. I’m excited. I know everybody’s excited. The Bears fans are excited from what I’ve heard and seen, and there’s no reason to duck. Attack it head first and go get it.”

Williams acknowledged there might be growing pains. But he insisted he expects to be great right away.

“Why wouldn’t I?” he said. “Obviously if there’s growing pains, you handle them. But that doesn’t mean that affects your greatness. There’s trials and tribulations that you go through. Why would I go somewhere, work so hard for so many years and then in every situation I go to believe I’m the best, and then I get here and I don’t believe that? That doesn’t mean that I go around and boast. That doesn’t mean that I go around and say that. But the way I handle my work, the way I carry myself every day, how I treat my friends, family, teammates, the faculty, the executives here, the custodians, whatever the case may be – treat everybody as they are, we’re all equal and everybody should think that they’re the best when you do things and you work so hard for stuff.”

Williams, who held up a No. 1 jersey on draft night, will wear No. 18 in Chicago. His number at USC – 13 – is taken by Allen.

Williams has a strong arm, an ability to avoid defenders and presence in the pocket. He had 93 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions during three seasons at Oklahoma and USC and captured the Heisman after following coach Lincoln Riley to Los Angeles from Norman.

“He’s not scared for greatness,” Riley said. “He’s not scared to put it out there. He’s not scared to be himself, and I think you have to have that belief in yourself. You have to have that belief in the people around you, and it’s contagious. Is is, when a leader or a quarterback feels that way about his team and what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Odunze, who led the nation with a school-record 1,640 yards receiving last season, got a close look at Williams the past few seasons.

“It was embarrassing to watch some of the things he was doing to our defence,” Odunze said. “Very special and a very unique skill set. When you watch him play, there are things he can do on the field you don’t see any other quarterback doing. He brings a unique skill set. He’s very confident in the pocket, very confident extending a play, and the play is never over until the whistle is blown, you know that.”

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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