Caleb Williams meets the media: QB unfazed by attention, questions, Bears history

INDIANAPOLIS — At 9:02 a.m. local time, in front of the biggest media audience at the NFL Scouting Combine, USC quarterback Caleb Williams announced his presence with an enthusiastic, “Good morning, everybody.”

And we were off.

Williams isn’t throwing at the combine. He’s not running the 40 or doing the vertical jump. He’s not even going through the medicals — more on that in a bit. We don’t get to see his meetings with teams.

That all made an already anticipated interview the headliner of Williams’ week — publicly, at least.

A crowd formed around podium No. 4 at the Indianapolis Convention Center 90 minutes before Williams spoke. We heard from LSU’s Jayden Daniels and North Carolina’s Drake Maye. After learning Marvin Harrison Jr. would not be attending his scheduled appearance, we wondered about Williams.

Like Harrison, Williams chose to only do interviews with teams during his time in Indianapolis. Like Harrison, he doesn’t have an agent, so the process might be a little different. But a few minutes before 9, the most-photographed name placard of all time was set on the podium.

The presumptive No. 1 pick showed up, and phones went into the air and flashes went off like a concert was starting. Television camera crews that secured their spots as early as two hours before Williams spoke yelled from behind to put the phones down.

It’s possible no player in this draft is more physically gifted than Williams, and few came to Indianapolis with more questions. Williams is no ordinary top prospect. There may be more curiosity than trepidation, but his recent decision to skip medical testing — often considered the most important part of the combine to teams — came under scrutiny.

“I’ll be doing the medical stuff, just not here in Indy,” Williams said. “I’ll be doing it at the team interviews. Not 32 teams can draft me. There’s only one of me. So the teams that I go to for my visit, those teams will have the medical, and that will be it.”



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For someone like Williams, who expects to go No. 1, it makes sense. It’s just new, and something we might see more in the future.

Williams acknowledged he doesn’t talk much. Infamously, that included after a game during his final season at USC. He spoke with ESPN this week because he felt he needed to quell a narrative about potentially not going to the team that drafted him.

“You rarely see me speak, ever,” he said. “As you all know, I don’t really go out and speak much, but this was important to me that I wanted to put something out before I came here, especially with all the noise and things like that that’s been brewing before I came here. Now since I’ve been here, a bunch of stuff comes out. But just wanted to put something out so everyone knew exactly where it was coming from.”

When Williams is in the NFL, he’ll be required to talk twice per week during the regular season. If that’s in Chicago — a major market that, unlike New York and Los Angeles, has only one NFL team — it’ll be a test. It’ll be something new, like for all rookies.

But Williams is different, and Chicago is different, and being a Bears quarterback is different.

During his 13 minutes, he didn’t seem fazed by any of it, including a century of quarterback futility in Chicago.

“I don’t compare myself to the other guys that are there or have been there,” he said. “I think I’m my own player, and I tend to like to create history and rewrite history.”



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As for the Bears, he expressed interest in joining a team that has a good foundation for a rookie quarterback.

“That’s pretty good for a team that has the first pick,” he said about the Bears’ seven wins last season. “And they’ve got a good defense. They’ve got good players on offense, and it’s pretty exciting if you can go into a situation like that.”

Williams wasn’t nervous. The shouting of questions from all directions didn’t fluster him. No question threw him — he spent the most time deciding what would be a fun combine event and decided on swimming, his “second best sport.” He did the media car wash afterward, talking with NFL Network and CBS Sports, before crashing his teammate Brenden Rice’s podium session.

The quarterback laughed at (or with) a few questions, like his Instagram post of a young Williams wearing a shirt with a Bear on it (“No, it was not intentional. I didn’t see the bear on the front. It was kind of funny when I saw the reports about it.”).

Williams chronicled the ups and downs of his 2023 season (“Lincoln (Riley) sat me down after our loss to Utah, I believe, and he sat me down and he said either you grow from something like this or you keep feeling this feeling and you’ll stay where you are.”).

He answered a question about his post-loss emotions, which received a lot of social media attention (“It’s something that I only get to experience. It’s something that I really care about, which isn’t only winning the game, but doing it with my teammates. Every time we lose, I feel like I let my teammates down.”).

Bears general manager Ryan Poles shared with the media that personnel director Jeff King views quarterbacks as either artists or surgeons. Which is Williams?

“I like to think when it’s time to be surgical, it’s time to be surgical,” he said. “There have been many games where it gets late in the game and I’ve ran or scrambled or threw a crazy pass that’s been the artist, the magician. And there’s been times, even when I hurt my hamstring and I couldn’t run, I sat in the pocket the whole time the rest of the game and delivered the ball.



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Poles and the rest of the decision-makers will form their own opinion from the 15-minute interview. But they certainly would keep an eye on how Williams dealt with the media throng.

Poles wants a quarterback who’s tough, who can handle all that comes with being a quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Thirteen minutes in front of a hundred reporters isn’t enough to answer all those questions. Even if it was, it wouldn’t tell us about Williams’ ability to learn the offense, lead the team and win games.

For this part of the pre-draft process, for this small puzzle piece of all the research to come, Chicago got its first introduction to Williams. He passed this test.

When Williams met with teams, as they tried to learn about him, he had one thing that he wanted to learn from them.

“Just, do you want to win?” he said. “That’s it.”



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(Photo: Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

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