Justin Fields

Caleb Williams reveals reaction to ‘unexpected' Justin Fields trade

Caleb Williams wasn't prepared for the Justin Fields trade to happen when it did

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Caleb Williams and the Bears have been on a collision course since early in the pre-draft process.

The Bears arrived at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine with Williams at the top of their board. Their initial plan was to host Williams on a top-30 visit shortly after the combine so they could get his medical information and cement a plan to move on from quarterback Justin Fields.

The top-30 visit was pushed back until early April, but Bears general manager Ryan Poles wanted to give Fields a fresh start and clear the deck for Williams as soon as possible.

On Saturday, March 16, four days before Williams' pro day in Los Angeles and three weeks before his visit to Halas Hall, Poles pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional 2025 sixth-round pick.

The timing of the trade took Williams by surprise, but it signaled the Bears' clear intentions to make him the No. 1 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft.

“I was in the car. I was driving to a business meeting. I’m listening to music. I’m bobbing my head. I probably got on Drake. I’m chilling," Williams said on the latest episode of "The Pivot." "I’m in West Hollywood driving to a business meeting and all I see is my phone explodes. Whether it’s actual regular fans or whether it’s ESPN or whatever the case may be. I pick up my phone, and it’s going off, and I’m trying to figure out because it went from nothing to maybe a couple texts to phone [makes text notification noise].

"I end up calling a couple people and was just like, ‘Welp, we know where their mind and heart is at in this instance.’ Let’s prepare and get ready and handle things accordingly and still do our due diligence on the situation and things like that. In that moment, it was kind of like, ‘Wow.’ Because I didn’t do my top-30 visit yet. They didn’t have my medicals and things like that. They have it all now and I had a good time on my top-30. But it was interesting right then in that moment because it was just so unexpected in that instance.”

The Bears spent two days with Williams in Los Angeles ahead of his pro day and took him to dinner with several veterans when he visited Halas Hall on his top-30 visit.

When the quarterback vetting process started, Poles explained that getting the right person in the building would be critical. Williams' unique talent is easy to see on film, but his character has continually impressed the Bears during the pre-draft process.

“When you talk to his teammates, they don't like him, they love him," Poles said of Williams at the annual NFL league meetings. “His leadership, how he brings people together. He's intentional with his leadership. Same goes with the staff. I'm having a hard time finding a person that doesn't like him or even love him and thinks that he can reach the highest limits."

The Bears' decision-makers have been struck by how Williams has been able to handle everything that comes with being a star quarterback in the NIL era in Los Angeles while remaining a grounded person and an incredible teammate.

“I think how he prioritizes everything that’s going on in his life with the NIL," Poles told NBC Sports Chicago. "Also with how he’s bringing his teammates together. You have situations where the guy is driving a sweet car, and he’s up in some penthouse with a really nice place in LA. You can isolate yourself and kind of be different than everyone else, but you feel like he’s bringing others along and kind of sharing what he has to kind of help bond the team together over the last few years. That’s important to see. It has been a cool kind of thing to unpack because it’s very different, right? You have to adjust your eyes a little bit.

"But at the same time, the main thing has got to be the main thing. There has got to be accountability. There has got to be intelligence. There has got to be a passion for the game. Some of those things, they are not going to change for how we try to identify the top level prospects.”

The Bears signaled their intention to draft Williams when they traded Fields, and that vision will become a reality on April 25 when Williams' name is the first one to be called at the draft in Detroit.

Once Williams' name is called, he'll officially start his journey to break Chicago's quarterback curse and try to fulfill his goal of catching Tom Brady in the only category that matters to him: Super Bowl titles.

"I want to play in one place for 20 years and chase one guy, number 12," Williams told "The Pivot" about his pending move to Chicago. "I want a place that loves ball. That's all I've heard about Chicago so far."

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