On the eve of the NFL draft, Caleb Williams can see his future as a Bear: ‘I’m ready for the moment’

DETROIT — Caleb Williams had one rule for participants in Wednesday morning’s Play Football Prospect Clinic with Special Olympics athletes: If you score, you dance.

Non-negotiable. And make it memorable.

“I mean, football is about having fun,” Williams said with a smile inside the Corner Ballpark facility on the site of the old Tiger Stadium.

That’s a philosophy Williams likely will carry with him into the NFL and into Halas Hall when he arrives as the new Chicago Bears quarterback at the end of this week. The Bears are expected to draft Williams with the No. 1 pick a little after 7 p.m. Thursday, and the hope is before long he’ll become the emcee of many an end-zone dance party.

Williams welcomed follow-up questions about his enthusiastic participation in Wednesday’s wiggle-worthy moments with the kids in the clinic.

“I was joining in,” he said. “You’ve got to lead by example. I’m not like Beyonce or anything, but I’m all right. I’m not bad. I’ll get out there. My hips don’t lie.”

The NFL draft finally has arrived, and almost the entire football world agrees that Williams is the no-brainer No. 1 selection for the Bears, who will be cashing in a gift from last year’s predraft trade with the Carolina Panthers.

In Williams, the Bears will be landing a prospect with a wide range of quarterbacking gifts and an abundance of self-confidence. In many respects, it feels like an inflection point.

Maybe Williams is finally the guy with the complete toolbox — of talent, of football IQ, of leadership skills, of unflappable composure — who will change the Bears’ fortune.

Williams long ago made one of the top goals on his football climb to one day become the top pick in the NFL draft. That box is about to be checked.

“(I feel) very normal, very calm,” he said Wednesday. “I prepared myself mentally for it. And I also prepared myself physically to put myself in this position for the past 12 years now. So I’m ready for the moment, ready to go, ready to lock and load.”

As for his day-before-the-wedding note to Bears fans?

“I can’t wait,” Williams said. “All I’ve heard is great things about you all. And I’m ready to go.”

A lot to learn

Wednesday’s availability with Williams came with a bit of a Super Bowl media day feel — not only in the mob of reporters that swarmed the quarterback to pepper him with questions, but also in the wide range of subjects covered. From football philosophy to style preferences to Hollywood name-drops.

Williams offered his suggestion for whom the Bears should choose with the No. 9 pick: Penn State offensive tackle Olu Fashanu, who, not coincidentally, was a teammate at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.

Williams later shared the most famous contact in his iPhone: Denzel Washington.

And when a young girl asked what advice he would give his 13-year-old self, Williams smiled.

“Keep going,” he said. “Keep going. You’re going to do it.”

You can learn a lot about a person in such settings. And it became apparent Williams also has a lot to learn about Chicago, the city counting on him to be its quarterback savior. For real this time.

Williams admitted he has no idea what a Chicago-style hot dog is. (He prefers his hot dogs loaded with the good stuff from Ben’s Chili Bowl, a D.C. favorite.)

Williams has not yet sampled Malort. (Probably a wise choice.)

He also wasn’t ready to share his Bears jersey number. Nor did he have much ambition to learn all there was to learn about the city when he dropped into town earlier this month for his predraft visit to Halas Hall.

“I wanted to get around the coaches and players,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’ll be spending 12 hours a day in there and I’ll be in the city probably once a month. So I was heavily into actually being in the facility around the guys and coaches.”

‘I’m really ready’

Williams has become much more familiar with the Bears as a team over the past three months. He has forged an early connection with general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus.

“It’s been fun to be around them,” he said. “They’re very detailed. They always have a plan. And they seem like they’re very routine-like, which is how I’ve been throughout my whole life.”

Williams expressed admiration for what Bears offensive coordinator Shane Waldron did in 2022 to help the career resurgence of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith.

And during his visit to Lake Forest a few weeks back, Williams enjoyed the dinner he had with a group of future teammates that included T.J. Edwards, DJ Moore and Cole Kmet.

“It was great,” Williams said. “It was really just to get around the players. Obviously they’re going to give the real take of me and get an idea of how I am going to be every day. That’s what that was about.

“I’m just one of them. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m the same person every day. And what they saw at that dinner is the person I’ll be five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now.”

More than anything, Williams expressed a combination of fulfillment and eagerness for what this week represents. He was 10 years old when he began dreaming about becoming the No. 1 pick, a fantasy that’s about to become reality.

“This is surreal,” he said.

But Williams also described himself as “ready” for Thursday night because it will open the bridge for him to cross from being a college superstar and highly regarded NFL prospect to becoming a Chicago Bear, surrounded by teammates with a similar purpose as his.

“I’m really ready,” Williams said. “Because I want to get back to a football team. I haven’t been on a football team since Nov. 18 (his last game at USC). So that has probably been the toughest part for me. It’s something I really want to get back to. Get back in the locker room, be around the guys, be involved every single day and let it rip.”

The next step

Williams even answered a question about the other huge Bears storyline of the day: the team’s official proposal of a $4.6 billion project to build a new fixed-roof stadium on the Museum Campus downtown.

In an ideal world for the Bears, the grand opening of that venue would be in four years or so, at the height of Williams’ powers in Chicago and in the league.

“If that was the place, I would be excited,” Williams said. “But that wouldn’t be for a couple years obviously. It takes a while to build things like that.”

That last sentiment is as true for stadium building as it is for quarterback emergence. But at the very least, Williams has arrived at a point in his football journey where he always knew he would be. At the NFL draft, as the likely No. 1 pick.

“As a kid, I did dream of this,” he said. “I set my goals. I went after it. I got it. I’m here. I’m ready for the moment.”