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Combine Notebook: Williams ready for big stage

Mar. 1—INDIANAPOLIS — Caleb Williams shook off questions Friday like so many overmatched pass rushers stumbling into the pocket.

Does the Southern California quarterback's decision not to participate in on-field drills during the NFL Scouting Combine suggest a lack of competitive nature?

"Didn't feel the need to go out and throw," Williams said. "I played around 30-something games, I believe. Go ahead and watch real live ball of me and see how I am as a competitor."

How about the fact he's skipping the medical tests — a Combine staple for decades — in Indianapolis?

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

What about the daunting history of failure at quarterback for the Chicago Bears, the team that holds the No. 1 pick in April's NFL Draft? Is it at least a little intimidating to walk into a landscape where so many others have failed?

"No, not at all," Williams said. "I don't compare myself to the other guys that are there or have been there. I think I'm my own player. I tend to like to create history and rewrite history."

If pervasive rumors prove true, he might soon get the chance.

The Bears are widely expected to trade incumbent starter Justin Fields and select Williams at the top of the draft. He'd take the reins of a franchise that hasn't consistently had an elite player under center since Sid Luckman retired in 1950.

But the 22-year-old is far more interested in Chicago's present — and perhaps immediate future — than in the distant past.

"The Bears were a 7-10 team (in 2023)," Williams said. "That is pretty good for a team that has the first pick, and they got a good defense. They got good players on offense, and it's pretty exciting if you can go into a situation like that."

Things turned a bit sour for Williams' own situation last year.

Crumbling under a struggling defense, USC stumbled to a 5-4 mark in the Pac-12 and an 8-5 overall record.

The quarterback's personal numbers dipped from his tremendous sophomore season with the Trojans. He completed 68.6% of his attempts for 3,633 yards with 30 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2023 after hitting on 66.6% of his throws for 4,537 yards with 42 scores and five picks a year earlier.

Williams admits it was hard to keep his composure at times, but he believes he'll be better for the experience.

"You grow from something like that," he said. "And (head coach) Lincoln (Riley) sat me down — after maybe our loss to Utah, I believe — and he sat me down and said, 'You either grow from something like this or you keep feeling this feeling, and you'll stay where you are.'"

Williams now resides at the top of most draft boards.

Perhaps, he'll soon have a chance to capture the imagination of the nation's third-largest city in ways no professional athlete has since Michael Jordan's world championship heyday with the Chicago Bulls.

"I'd say anywhere I go, that is my standard," Williams said. "That is what I play for, as y'all saw. I don't play for fame. I don't play for money. I don't play for jewels and things like that. It's to go out there and win as many games as possible — be the best that I can.

"My plan is if I can be my best and play as many games as possible at my best, I think I can reach certain points like that."

COMEBACK KID

Jordan Travis suffered the most infamous ankle injury in college football last year.

When he went down late in the season, it opened the door for the College Football Playoff committee to shut out undefeated Atlantic Coast Conference champion Florida State in favor of one-loss Southeastern Conference champ Alabama in the four-team field.

Travis said Friday he still doesn't agree with that decision, but his injury is healing. He's out of the walking boot and expects to be able to suit up for his new team this summer.

Why should NFL teams draft him?

"Just a guy that goes out and makes plays, no matter what I'm given," Travis said. "I feel like I showed it throughout my career, always just going out and improvising and making plays — a leader for our football team.

"I think that's one of the biggest things. You have to be a leader for your football team. You have to get guys around you to play for you, and at the end of the day, I'm a winner. So I've proven that."

VIRTUAL COMBINE

Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze had one of the more entertaining media sessions during this year's Combine.

Among his more unique answers was an idea for a new drill to be added.

"A video game circuit," he said. "Test your cognitive ability and test your reaction skills. You got to go into a war zone. If you don't get top five, you're automatically cut."