What we learned from Caleb Williams' NFL combine interview after first Bears meeting

What we learned from Caleb Williams' NFL combine interview after first Bears meeting originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

INDIANAPOLIS -- The wait finally ended Friday in Hall J of the Indiana Convention Center when USC quarterback and presumptive No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams stepped to the microphone and fielded questions for 15 minutes at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, doesn't speak much. He doesn't sit for interviews. He doesn't go to Instagram Live to dispel false notions about himself or his preferences. He doesn't have an agent. His dad, Carl, and his publicist and marketing team handle everything.

Until Wednesday, when Williams spoke with ESPN's Pete Thamel and declared he'd be "excited" to be drafted by the Bears at No. 1, we hadn't heard from the star quarterback since the end of the college football season.

Friday was Williams' chance to answer questions from a typical combine media circus, explain some decisions, expand on his feelings about the Bears, and show the teams that were surely watching that he could handle the attention that comes with being the face of the franchise.

Williams met with Bears general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus for the first time Wednesday night. On Friday morning, the assembled NFL media (mainly the Chicago contingent) got their chance to find out what makes Williams tick.

Here's what we learned from our first interview with Caleb Williams:

Williams and the Bears: A match or no?

Williams stepped to the mic Friday, and the volley from about the Bears started with a question about his overall feelings about landing in Chicago and what the Bears are building.

“I mean, the Bears was an 8-9 team last year – 7-10, sorry – that’s pretty good for a team that has the first pick," Williams said. "They got a good defense. They got good players on offense and it’s pretty exciting if you could go into a situation like that.”

A franchise quarterback must work closely with the general manager and head coach. Those partnerships are vital to finding the prosperity that has long eluded the Bears.

Williams' first meeting with Poles and Eberflus went smoothly, as most combine sit-downs. But the focus was on Williams, not the Bears' power brokers.

“They were awesome," Williams said of Poles and Eberflus. "I spoke more about ball and things about that because the interviews are so short. It was more about them getting to know me, getting to test my mental, what I know, the base things of what it takes to be a quarterback in the NFL.”

When asked if he got the sense that Poles and Eberflus would be able to develop him as an NFL quarterback, Williams didn't have an answer.

“Ten minutes is difficult to be able to figure out if they are going to develop you. I enjoyed the meeting. It was a good meeting. But 10 minutes or so is pretty difficult.”

Watch the tape

Williams arrived in Indianapolis to do the sit-downs with teams and check off the media box.

But the presumptive No. 1 overall pick is not going through medical evaluations, nor will he participate in the throwing drills on Saturday. Top quarterbacks Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels also will not throw.

Williams said he doesn't feel the need to throw Saturday. In short, the resume is the tape.

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

As far as the medicals go, Williams doesn't see the need to give every team his information when only a few can draft him.

“For the medical stuff, 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 got to for my visit. So those teams will have my medicals and that will be it.”

Leadership test

Poles has emphasized the importance of getting to know "the person" when choosing a quarterback. The Bears' meetings with Williams will be all about figuring out what makes him tick and whether or not he can lead them into the next phase of their rebuild.

Williams understands the task he'll face trying to command respect in an NFL locker room, but he believes his different experiences at Oklahoma and USC have prepared him to handle it.

“I wouldn’t say I feel as I necessarily need to make a jump," Williams said of his leadership. "There’s small things that you may need to correct or adapt to going into an NFL locker room where I’m 22 and people have kids and they are ranging on 35 and things like that. I would say just adapting to the situation, understanding what the team needs from me, and going about it that way.

“So the cool thing about my experience is that all three years have been a bit different," Williams said later. "This last year we went 7-5 and so my leadership needed to be different. The year before I came into a situation where we were 4-8 and so my leadership needed to be different. The year before I came in as a backup and I jumped up and became the starter so my leadership throughout times has been different. I think it has helped groom me for the situation I’m going into now.”

QB graveyard

When presented with the Bears' not-so-flattering quarterback history and asked if that climb intimidates him, Williams didn't blink.

“No. Not at all," Williams said. "I don’t compare myself to the other guys that’s there or been there. I’m my own player and I tend to like to create history and rewrite history.”

Williams has noted his love of Michael Jordan and desire to become an immortal athlete on the same level. Chicago could be the optimal place for him to make such a rise, but Williams believes that he can become a legend wherever he lands.

“Anywhere I go, that’s my standard," Williams said. "That’s 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. Just go out there and win as many games as possible and be the best that I can. My plan is if I can be my best and play as many game as possible at my best, I think I can reach certain points like that.”

Desire to be No. 1?

While Williams is the presumptive No. 1 pick on March 1, there is always a chance that Daniels or Maye could overtake him as the pre-draft process continues.

That hasn't entered Williams' mind, though.

When asked if he'd be disappointed not to be drafted at No. 1, Williams said the thought hadn't even crossed his mind.

“It’s not a thought in my mind that I think I’m not going to be No. 1," Williams said. "I’ve put in all the hard work, the time, effort, energy into being that. I don’t think of a Plan B. That’s kind of how I do things in my life. Stay on Plan A and then when things don’t work out, find a way to make Plan A work.”

Who is Caleb Williams?

This week was the first time that teams and NFL media have had the chance to try to get to know Williams, who is notoriously private.

Williams hopes teams and fans get a good sense of who he really is and not the narratives out there.

“I’d say the player and person they’d be getting – a person who cares for his teammates," Williams said. "Some of y’all may have seen, some of y’all may have not, I try to take care of all my guys no matter if you’ve been fourth on the depth chart or you’re the star player. I care for my teammates and the other part is I’m a fierce competitor as you may have seen after some games.”

When asked why he felt the need to talk to ESPN before the combine about the narrative he didn't want to go to Chicago, Williams said he thought it was the right time to get the real story out there and not let a story driven by false narratives that arise out of his lack of public appearances.

“A lot of things are coming out right now," Williams said. "Y’all rarely see me speak. Ever. As y’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 and things like hat before I came. Now since I’ve been here a bunch a stuff comes out but just wanted to put something out so everybody knew exactly where it was coming from.”

What does Caleb Williams want in an NFL team?

This is the big question.

Williams said he'd love to play for the Bears or his hometown Commanders. He has said he will be excited to wear the helmet of whatever team calls his name.

But Williams and his team also have an idea of what they want in a franchise. They want to go somewhere that will foster his development and help him reach the star potential his talent suggests. They don't want him to wind up in some forgotten corner of the NFL, left to languish in mediocrity on "RedZone."

But more than anything, Williams just wants to win.

“I want to go to a place that wants to win," Williams said. "360. From the top all the way to the guys and down to the janitors and people that make everything run. Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to be part of that and we all take care of each other.”

When asked what he still wants to learn from the Bears, Williams fired away without thought:

"Just do you want to win?"

When the final volley from the media came, Williams was ready to escape.

Caleb, have the Bears told you that you're going to be the No. 1 pick?

Williams laughed and then hopped off the podium like he was evading an oncoming edge rusher.

"Thank you everybody."

And with that, Caleb Williams, the Bears' likely future, stepped off the stage and back out of the spotlight.

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