NFL Draft

Caleb Williams is facing colossal expectations. The likely No. 1 NFL draft pick isn't scared.

INDIANAPOLIS –He’sthe face of thisupcoming NFL draft, the presumed No. 1 overall pick with a bullet.Caleb Williamssurely looked and sounded like the part on Friday,whentheNFL’snext can’t-miss quarterbackprospectmet with dozens of reporters during theleague’s annualscouting combineand unleashed, well, a stream of consciousness.

What ifhe’snot drafted with the top pick?

Good, at least somebody asked the question.

“It’s not a thought in my mind,” Williams responded.

Go ahead, check the box for confidence on your draft scorecard.

NFL DRAFT HUB: that would be parlayed into more layers of support toprovidethe newquarterback.

In other words, let thegreat expectationsroll.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams, left, celebrates after USC defeated UCLA 48-45 in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif.

Williams, 22, feels it and is hardly scrambling out of the pocketwhen considering the weight that will come as the centerpiece for a franchise thathas a tradition of floundering quarterbacks. He envisions making such a mark thathe’sdelved deep into learning about twoWindy Citysports icons – Michael Jordan and Walter Payton.

Nothingmay saymore about embracing expectations quite like that.

Asked toponderbecoming the football version of Jordan in Chicago, Williams said, “I’dsay anywhere I go, that is my standard. That iswhat I play for as you all saw.

“Idon’tplay for fame. Idon’tplay for money. Idon’tplay for jewels and things like that. I want to goout there and win as many games as possible. Be the best that I can...I think I can reach certain points like that.”

Williams, as expected, refused toparticipatein the combine workouts and quarterback drills. So, there will be no fresh comparisons to othersin a loaded quarterback class, at least when it comes to the so-called “underwear Olympics.” That, too, reflects how it is often done with thetop prospects in a draft (Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison, Jr., is another notable non-participant in drills).

“I didn’t feel the need to go out and throw,” said Williams, who, in the fashion of two-time MVP Lamar Jackson,won’thire an agent.

“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.”

It was more stunning, though, that Williams declined to engage in the extensive medical evaluations that are part of the combine process. The event was actually established during the 1980s as acost-effective means for the medicalstaffsof every NFL team to assemble while examining the top prospects. The workouts and interviewscame after that.

Well, Williams has bucked that bit of history andprovidedanother example of how some players, at least the starplayers, are flexing more leverage.

It’sunclear whetherhe’sthe first healthy prospect to refuse to undergo the battery of medical tests. Buthe’ssurely not the first who might be annoyed by thepoking and prodding from so many hands during the process.

“I’ll be doingthemedicalstuff,” Williams said. “Just not here in Indy.I’llbe doingthem at the team interviews. Not all 32 teams can draft me. There is only one of me. So, the teams that I go to for my visits, thoseteams will have the medical, andthat’sit.”

The showcase date for USC’s pro day is March 20. After that, Williams will undoubtedly visit andpresumably workout for teams at the top of the draft – the Washington Commanders and New England Patriots currently hold the second and third choices after the Bears.

While at the combine, Williamsengagedin interviews withseveralteams, including those with the top three picks.

Surely, his early impressions of the Bears' brain trust, headed by Poles and coach MattEberflus, are significant enough. Even when the block of time for such combine interviews is in the 10-minute range.

“They wereawesome," Williams said. "I spoke more about all and things like that because the interviews are so short. So, 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."

The Bears will have a new offensive coordinator, with Shane Waldron lured from Seattle. That dynamics of that potential relationship will be crucial. Yet that, too, will have to wait and play out.

"Ten minutes is difficult to figure out if they're going to be able to develop you," Williams said. "I enjoyed the meeting. It was a good meeting, but 10 minutes or so, it's pretty difficult."

Pragmatic enough. Yet Williams doesn't hesitate to share certain impressions of the team that landed the top pick from the woeful Carolina Panthers as part of a trade in 2023.

"The Bears were a 7-10 team," he said, alluding to Chicago's finish. "That is pretty good for a team that has the first pick. And they've got a good defense. They've got good players on offense, and it's pretty exciting if you can go into a situation like that."

Any message to the fans of Chicago?

"I'd say the player and person they'd be getting is a person that cares for his teammates," Williams said. "Some of y'all may have seen...I try to take care of all my guys, no matter if you're fourth on the depth chart or the star player. The other part is I'm a fierce competitor, as you may have seen after some games."

He'd better be as the top pick in the draft. And as the ramp-up to the draft intensifies, Williams will brace himself for various forms of nitpicking, rumors and innuendos that, fair or not, have become part of the process.

Along the way, he wants to find out something about the Bears, too.

"Just do you want to win," he said. "That is it."

Spoken like a real No. 1.

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