Rome Odunze

Why Caleb Williams-Rome Odunze is perfect pairing to accelerate Bears' push for greatness

The Caleb Williams-Rome Odunze pairing should be perfect for many reasons

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The on-field fit between new Bears quarterback Caleb Williams and new rookie wide receiver Rome Odunze was obvious well before general manager Ryan Poles selected both elite prospects during the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Odunze is a quarterback-friendly receiver who has quick releases off the line, excellent ball skills, and excels in contested catch situations. The Bears already have arguably two of the most quarterback-friendly receivers in the NFL, DJ Moore and Keenan Allen, but they coveted Odunze anyway and were thrilled when he slid to them at No. 9 overall.

While Odunze will undoubtedly make Williams' life even easier on the field during a critical developmental rookie season, the Bears' decision to select him will be as critical off the field as it is on it.

Williams has been open about his big expectations for his Bears tenure. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner has said he wants to pass Tom Brady's mark of seven Super Bowl championships and told reporters at the draft that his "last goal is to be immortal."

Williams is uniquely wired to thrive in a situation that has crushed the quarterbacks who have come before him. But setting high expectations for those around you can be detrimental if all parties aren't on the same page.

Odunze has the same wiring as Williams.

He's a perfectionist who won't be satisfied with anything less than greatness.

This was on display during the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine when Odunze, who was the only one of the top three receivers to test, refused to leave the field until he got the 3-cone drill right. He eventually left, but not after exhausting his effort to do the drill correctly.

“I think for me, I had told everybody I was going to finish the combine and compete in everything I did," Odunze said Friday at Halas Hall when asked about the moment. "When I was going through that process, they weren't giving me a time because they didn't say I was doing the drill exactly how I wanted it done. To me, I wasn't leaving the field until I had completed every single task I said I was going to compete. That's just me as a man. I hold my word very sternly and doing what I say I'm going to do. It was my goal to go out and compete at every single thing at the combine and I wasn't going to leave the field until that was done."

Odunze and Williams have the same wiring, and bringing them in together could be an accelerant to the Bears' push for greatness.

Williams and Odunze will push each other as they begin their NFL journey and serve as a bar-raising foundational duo alongside Moore, cornerback Jaylon Johnson, defensive end Montez Sweat, and tight end Cole Kmet.

When asked about Williams's big plans for himself and the Bears, Odunze smiled and left no doubt he'd be ready to meet the moment alongside his quarterback.

"I think he speaks it into existence," Odunze told reporters about Williams at the draft in Detroit. "I think that comes from a confidence in himself and the people around him to continue to have success that is very unique to himself. I see myself in that same fashion. I want to go out there and do legendary things, and that takes legendary goals and not the shyness to go out there and say that you're going to go out there and go do those things.

"I think it's going to be a lot of sacrifice and a lot of hard work and I'm 100 percent down for it," Odunze continued later. "If you're going to play this game, why not play it to be one of the greats. I think that's the mindset that I have and I think he shares that same mindset. ... If you're going to play this game, why not be the best to ever do it. It's easier for a quarterback to do that than a receiver, right? Maybe I'll be second best behind Caleb."

Most of the pre-draft focus was on the infrastructure the Bears built around Williams. But the importance of adding a potential star in Odunze -- someone who has the same lofty goals and rare wiring -- shouldn't be discounted as another massive aid in the development of the Bears' franchise quarterback.

Williams makes no small plans. But he'll need help turning his visions of greatness into a reality. There might be no better partner for that task than Odunze.

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