Caleb Williams checked vital boxes for Bears, Matt Eberflus at USC Pro Day

Caleb Williams checked vital boxes for Bears, Matt Eberflus at USC Pro Day originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

ORLANDO -- The Bears' search for a new franchise quarterback has them zeroed in on USC star and 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams.

The Bears first met Williams at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. After getting an initial feel for the 22-year-old, the Bears' decision-makers made a three-day excursion to Los Angeles to spend time with Williams and watch him throw at USC's Pro Day.

It was during these three days that the Bears started to get a firm understanding of who Williams is as a person and leader.

"It was a really good visit out to USC and the pro day," Eberflus told Chicago media on Tuesday in Orlando. "We went to dinner the night before with several of the players on the USC team that are draft-eligible. It was great to see him interact—a great personality. Great character. You could see that easily during the dinner. And then the next day we spent some time doing the football knowledge.

"You could see his character, his football character there, his football knowledge as I talk through that. It was a really good visit."

Regarding the actual workout, the Bears just wanted to make sure that what they saw on tape matched what they saw in person.

"It was great. The biggest takeaway is that you can see the arm talent on the film and you can see it there in person," Eberflus said of the workout. "That was the biggest takeaway. What I loved to see was the interaction with the other players. You can see that, and we talked to every person that was on that team. At the Senior Bowl, we interviewed them and interviewed them at the pro day. We talked to those guys at the dinner and you can certainly see those players love him and respect him and what he’s brought to that program."

The Bears plan to host Williams for a top-30 visit during the first week of April. During that time, the Bears will continue to work Williams through their offense. The Bears' decision-makers want to see how he handles hearing calls from the headset, digesting the information, recalling it, and delivering it in the huddle.

"We’ll just continue on with some of the install that we installed there in the pro day," Eberflus said of the plan for the 30 visit. "We’ll keep continuing on that journey, teaching him more of the offense and then having him give it back to us and see where he is that way. He’s been great that way. Again, spend some more time visitng with him. He’ll get a chance to spend some more time with the offensive staff that wasn’t there at the pro day. It’s gonna be good."

All signs point to Williams being the Bears' selection when they go on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on April 25.

The Bears have been impressed by Williams' maturity, leadership, and ability to connect with his teammates and staff.

General manager Ryan Poles said the Bears haven't found one person who doesn't "love" Williams.

Williams has checked all the Bears' leader and person boxes so far, and Poles has been impressed by his ability to navigate everything that comes with being one of the first NIL quarterbacks.

“I think how he prioritizes everything that’s going on in his life with the NIL," Poles told NBC Sports Chicago when asked what has struck him about Williams off the field. "Also with how he’s bringing his teammates together. You have situations where the guy is driving a sweet car, and he’s up in some penthouse with a really nice place in LA. You can isolate yourself and kind of be different than everyone else, but you feel like he’s bringing others along and kind of sharing what he has to kind of help bond the team together over the last few years. That’s important to see. It has been a cool kind of thing to unpack because it’s very different, right? You have to adjust your eyes a little bit.

"But at the same time, the main thing has got to be the main thing. There has got to be accountability. There has got to be intelligence. There has got to be a passion for the game. Some of those things, they are not going to change for how we try to identify the top level prospects.”

The Bears have clearly identified Williams as their quarterback of the future. Their trip to USC's pro day only crystallized a plan that has been in motion for quite some time.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.