Caleb Williams

‘Championship mindset:' Bears coaches, teammates share early impressions of Caleb Williams

From his leadership to his work ethic, arm talent, and wiring, Caleb Williams is already wowing his teammates and coaches

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Caleb Williams' first weekend on an NFL practice field went as expected. The Bears' rookie quarterback was accurate and precise during a rookie minicamp filled with players who were mostly in Lake Forest on a tryout basis.

While Williams' arm talent was evident even in warm-ups, it's his aura, work ethic, and wiring that left an early impression on his coaches and teammates.

"He’s one of those guys who want to know why," quarterbacks coach Kerry Joseph said after the two-day camp wrapped up. "You put something in, you put a play in, you talk about it, you give him the progressions, whether it’s run or pass, like he wants to know why. Last night, probably about 10:30 or 11 o’clock, he texts me, ‘Hey, why are we doing this here? Why are we blocking it like that? Isn’t that his guy to block?’ He just wants to know. He wants to know those answers.

"So when you have a guy like that, he’s hungry for it and you love to know that because now he becomes a coach on the field for you. Once he gets it and learns this whole system, he’ll become a coach on the field now."

For offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, Williams' demeanor and leadership stood out during the pre-draft process and has continued to do so during his first weeks as a Bear.

Waldron knows Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, has a laundry list of "SportsCenter" highlights. But it was Williams' resilience in a season-ending loss to UCLA that showed Waldron what his young quarterback is made of.

"I think the way that he finished the UCLA game in a way that he stayed competing no matter what the outcome was going to be, he made some good throws, throws on the move to finish the game out there," Waldron said of Williams. "To me, you see the competitor, the championship mindset where he’s going to be at his best, no matter the situation around him and keep playing. Seeing that. Because everyone is good in the NFL. Every week, you’re playing against great people on defense, great schemes, and so that ability, regardless of what’s going on with the external noise or the situation in a game, play every play as its own individual snap. He demonstrated that. Take away all the highlight-highlight reels. That was a good moment."

As he has done previously, head coach Matt Eberflus gushed about Williams' aura and his early impact on the franchise.

"You can really tell he’s comfortable in his own skin, and he is who he is," Eberflus said. "His personality starts. His light comes out from the inside. You can certainly feel that energy. He’s a 1-plus-1-equals-3 guy. He’s an enhancer. He’s a guy that brings out the best in people. You can certainly feel that in him within five minutes of meeting him."

Passing game coordinator Thomas Brown was part of the Carolina Panthers' contingent that evaluated last year's crop of quarterbacks and eventually selected Bryce Young at No. 1 overall. Brown's conversations with people around USC's program told him who Williams is, and that information has proved true so far in his time with the rookie quarterback.

"To get on the road and go to USC’s pro day, and it’s kind of hard to tell because everyone is always on their best behavior, but when you pull guys aside and you ask the coaches, you ask the trainers, you ask the assistants around the building: How is he outside of the limelight? Everybody had the same thing to say about him," Brown said. "The connection piece. Pulls everyone together. But just the overall demeanor. He’s upbeat, super competitive, which I love. You got to have that competitive spirit. But he’s a grinder at the same time.”

Undrafted rookie quarterback Austin Reed trained with Williams in Florida during the pre-draft process and has gotten a good feel for what drives the future of the Bears' franchise.

The word "rare" might not do it justice.

"I think anyone with a brain knows that this dude is being tabbed as like a generational prospect and I don’t think he shies away from that," Reed said after Day 1 of camp. "I think he understands the work that it’s gonna take to become that instead of just thinking he is that already. I kind of just respect the fact that he carries himself in that manner and that he really is like: I’m gonna go earn that tag, instead of just thinking that he is that."

Bears third-round draft pick Kiran Amegadjie has also experienced Williams' work ethic firsthand in their brief time as teammates.

"He's a big presence in the locker room already," Amegadjie said Saturday. "He's a good leader. He's a person that works hard. He's always the first one in in the morning. When I get here, he's always in here already. So I think he's going to be a great leader for us on this team."

As for Williams' on-field ability, fellow first-round Rome Odunze summed up why the Bears tabbed the USC star as the face of the franchise.

"It's really effortless for him," Odunze said. "You know he could do a lot of things that older quarterbacks may think is hard, effortlessly. You know he continues to improve every time I see and he's very smooth. You know he could throw the ball from any angle, body position, anywhere on the field, to any spot on the field. So you always have to be ready. Always have to be prepared anytime he is in the backfield, so it gives you the confidence that he's going to put it on you when you're giving him your best on the route."

Williams has a long way to go to reach "immortality," but he is already showing why the Bears believe he's different than those who came before him and those in his class.

The Bears have a clear plan to develop him and maximize his rare gifts. That plan launched this past weekend at Halas Hall.

Time will tell if it helps lift Williams into the stratospheric heights many believe he is destined to reach.

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