How will Caleb Williams fit into the team culture the Bears are building? ‘He’s all ball, wants to work.’

CHICAGO — Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles gave a sly smile as he provided the answer he knew would satisfy nobody.

After months of courting USC quarterback Caleb Williams at the NFL scouting combine, his pro day and his top-30 visit to Halas Hall … after Williams’ private dinner in Los Angeles with Bears brass and coaches and another dinner in Lake Forest with veteran players … after Bears coaches conducted film and recall sessions with Williams … after extensive research into the player and person the Bears would be bringing in as their new leader … after trading Justin Fields to clear the way for the rookie …

Could Poles just announce the Bears will be drafting Williams with the No. 1 pick already?

Nope, sorry.

What feels like the longest draft buildup in Bears history will have to continue until the selection of Williams becomes official Thursday night on the NFL draft stage in Detroit.

“Everyone’s got to tune in on Thursday to watch and figure out,” Poles said Tuesday at Halas Hall as assistant GM Ian Cunningham also cracked a smile next to him. “But I feel really good about our process and where we are and where we’re headed. So we know what we’re going to do, but everyone is going to have to wait until Thursday to go there.”

The Bears have been expected to take Williams with the top pick for weeks after they sent Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers on March 16 for a conditional sixth-round pick. Since then, Poles has spoken positively about the team’s interactions with Williams, and that continued with the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner’s visit to Lake Forest earlier this month. Williams was the only quarterback the Bears hosted on such a visit this year.

Poles said Bears coaches used the time to test Williams’ football understanding, and the team also sent Williams to dinner with a group of veteran players that included linebacker T.J. Edwards, wide receiver DJ Moore and tight end Cole Kmet. Poles believes the Bears culture is in a good place, and he solicited feedback from his veterans about whether Williams would be a good fit.

Poles said they found Williams to be a “really intelligent guy” who does not necessarily fit the “Hollywood” stereotype some may associate with a prospect who already has made millions with name, image and likeness deals while spending his last two college seasons in Los Angeles.

“Came across as a really good teammate, easy to talk to, down to earth,” Poles said. “We’ve talked through this process about the whole Hollywood thing. He’s all ball, wants to work, wants to get better, wants to win as a team. That’s the No. 1 thing for him on top of being successful.

“I think the biggest thing is does he fit in our culture and what we’re trying to do? And all signs were that he does, so that was positive.”

Edwards was at Halas Hall on Tuesday morning with right tackle Darnell Wright to accept the Brian Piccolo Awards, which are given annually to a Bears veteran and rookie who embody the “courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor” for which Piccolo was known.

Edwards was tight-lipped about the dinner with Williams, but he did say there will be excitement for a rookie quarterback to come in and make waves.

“It’d be incredible for all of us, right?” Edwards said. “I think that’s the hope. Whoever comes in and whoever’s under center — whether it’s someone who’s here already or a new guy — we’re excited. We’ll embrace them and they’ll fit into our culture. Because I know our front office does their research for sure.”

Wright called Williams “a good player.”

“I think once all the media stuff dies down, he’ll get to work just like any other player would,” Wright said. “He’ll be good.”

Poles spoke extensively about Williams at the NFL owners meetings last month. He and Cunningham spent more time Tuesday during their predraft news conference talking about the more uncertain No. 9 pick the Bears will make Thursday night. (If Poles needed a hint about whom to consider, Williams tweeted that Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze was on his Tuesday morning flight to Detroit for the draft and declared himself a “Big fan!”)

But beyond that selection, Poles was asked about the big aspirations Williams will bring to Chicago. Williams declared in the fall he wants to win eight Super Bowls to surpass Tom Brady and hasn’t backed down from the grand statement.

“I love it,” Poles said. “I think we all should have huge goals. We have huge goals here — win multiple championships. And that’s what we shoot for.

“You’re more intentional when you have these goals. You have to live a certain way, you have to practice a certain way, you have to go about your business a certain way in order to accomplish those. If everything else is in line underneath that, that gets me excited.”

That feeling keeps building as the Bears inch closer to their big moment Thursday night. Poles insisted he wasn’t given a directive to keep quiet until then.

“It’s my personal deal,” he said. “And it lets us have some excitement on Thursday, right?”

The countdown is on.