Caleb Williams

NFL TE who played with Brady, Brees reveals one thing he'll look for in Caleb Williams

These great quarterbacks share some commonalities, despite different playstyles

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CHICAGO – Over the course of the summer, we’re going to be bombarded with highlights of Caleb Williams completing passes to Keenan Allen, DJ Moore and Rome Odunze. There will be deep shots, throws in small gaps and touchdowns. The hype will be off the charts as fans try to project how great Williams can be in the NFL.

A former NFL tight end believes there are ways to judge just how great Williams can be, right now, though. Clay Harbor spent nearly eight seasons in the league, catching passes from the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matt Stafford. He’s seen what it takes to be the best, and he recently joined us for an episode of the “Under Center” podcast to reveal what he’d look for to determine whether or not Williams can join their ranks.

“The first thing I want to see is, what are his habits like?” Harbor said. “Is he showing up early? Is he a guy that’s going to stay late and throw? Is he getting out of the building before other guys, or are you staying there until basically everybody’s gone?”

Harbor said it’s easy to pick up on those habits right away, sometimes as early as rookie minicamp. It’s not hard to sort through players who take the practice field because they love football, or are dedicated to being the best they can be, compared to players who take the field because they’re looking for a paycheck.

To illustrate his point, Harbor shared a story of his first OTAs with the Patriots back in 2016.

“Tom Brady’s in the front row. He’s been in this offense for 16 years… but Tom Brady is in the front row taking notes on every single play in the basic install. This is the normal stuff. How many times has he been through it? I go, ‘What is he doing? Is he drawing stick figures?’ He knows this better than the coaches do, 16th year in the offense, and he’s taking notes.”

When Harbor described Brees, he used the word “meticulous” several times. Brees’ exacting nature set him apart from other QBs he played alongside.

“I came back from catching a ball and I just set it on the ground,” Harbor recalled from some voluntary offseason work with Brees back in 2017. “He goes, ‘Clay, don’t set the ball on the ground. I don’t like bending over more than I have to.’ I go, ‘Ok,’ so next time I just waited so he could take the ball, so he didn’t have to bend down to pick up the ball. That’s how meticulous these quarterbacks are.”

Harbor also recalled Brees’ exceptional generosity for those offseason workouts.

“He buys my flight, first class, both ways. Puts me up in a five-star hotel. Picked us up every morning at 6 a.m. on the dot. Drove us out to his field in California. Had the routes listed on a paper, exactly how we were going to run them, the motions, everything, so we could get through all the routes. Then he took us to his training facility and paid for that. Paid for massages and paid for our food for dinner.

“You can see the things that make these great players, great players.”

By all accounts, Williams has those traits. We’ve heard from numerous former coaches and teammates that Williams has an incredible drive to develop into an elite quarterback. He’s vocalized goals to surpass Brady’s record for most Super Bowl wins. Williams is known to be another meticulous planner, who sets clear goals and puts together a detailed outline on how he’s going to achieve those goals. He’s also dedicated to learning as much as he can about playing quarterback, whether it’s from coaches, teammates or others. Williams knows he doesn’t have all the answers right now.

“To be a great leader, you gotta learn how to follow first,” said Williams at rookie minicamp. “So right now I'm following all the vets, I'm following all the coaches. I'm listening, having both ears open and my mouth shut.”

“That’s one of the reasons why I think Caleb’s going to be successful,” Harbor said. “Because of his personality. He’s not a guy who’s going in saying ‘I’m the No. 1 pick, I know this stuff, I’m the man.’”

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