Nov 18, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) scrambles during the third quarter against the UCLA Bruins at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
FRISCO, TEXAS — The NFL gathered inside the Hyatt Regency Frisco hotel on Friday to begin the events at the 2024 East-West Shrine Bowl.
Everyone from NFL scouts to coaches and general managers were there to interview the next wave of potential NFL prospects.
For Friday’s interviews, the media were able to speak with the East and West wide receivers, and the West team’s defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs and offensive linemen.
In this group of players, there were several that either played with or played against USC quarterback Caleb Williams. The Chicago Bears currently own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and general manager Ryan Poles could potentially use that to select a quarterback.
To get a better understanding of Williams, here is what his former teammates and competitors had to say about him.
Tahj Washington (USC) Wide Receiver
How would you describe what it was like playing with Caleb Williams?
“It was an exceptional experience. It was cool, you know, to be a part of his Heisman journey. That’s my first time playing with somebody that won the Heisman. Somebody that I personally know as well. It was cool. It was a great experience. A phenomenal player as we all know, but even better person. Having that inside take on, you know, him as a person. Just being able to see him every day be the person he is with so many distractions around him and still be able to able to perform. Just take notes from him.”
How would you describe him as a person? What kind of teammate is Caleb?
“He’s a great teammate. Great person on and off the field. Like joke, funny, guys like that. He knows how to compartmentalize well. I feel like as a player and a person you need to know to know how to do those things well where it’s like when it’s business time, it’s time to get down to business. But I was very grateful to play with him.”
What is he like on the practice field. Not a lot of people get to see that side of Caleb Williams?
“That’s where I’ve seen the craziest throws, catches and play making. Like the game, it’s cool to see him make those plays, but some of the plays he made in practice have been even crazier.”
Caleb has some outside interests outside of football with elevating his brand and being into business. Did that ever rub you the wrong way?
“Shoot, I’m with him. I fully support that. Whatever guys want to do. I feel like it’s important for guys to be able to do that and use the spotlight they have for that to express who they are as people. So, I’m really impressed how he handled it too. …”
How would you say he responded after the Notre Dame game?
“I feel like he did a good job responding. You know that is challenging. It’s probably the worst game we’ve ever seen, but it could’ve been so much worse. From him being who he is it exemplified and multiplied even more. He handled it well. We all watched the film and had to own up to our mistakes. His was just a little more spotlighted than everybody else. That’s how football is.”
Is Caleb deserving to be the No. 1 overall pick?
What makes you say that? Why should a team that has the No. 1 overall pick draft Caleb Williams?
“If you got the opportunity to draft him, I mean nothing else really needs to be said. I mean you see it, you know it. Anything that needs to be said, like, I don’t know what you’re thinking about.”
Gabriel Murphy (UCLA) Defensive Lineman
What was your overall experience playing against a talented player like Caleb Williams last season?
“It was a great experience playing against Caleb Williams. He’s the projected No. 1 overall prospect, so kudos to him. He does his thing. But it was just like playing another game. You know there is a quarterback back there and it’s my job to go get the quarterback and I did that. It was fun out there playing and we came out there with a win. He got us my first year at UCLA, so we came back and got him in the coliseum, so I can at least say we beat USC before we got out of there. So, that’s big.”
What makes him a difficult player to go against to sack, whatever it may be?
“I’d say he is slippery. He’s got a big build. I’m not trying to get onto him too much, but he is a good football player and you always like to compete against the best. I consider myself as one of the best at what I do, so if he is one of the best at what he wants to do, I want him to go out there and prove it to me each and every down. I just want to get after the best. …”
Is he deserving to be the No. 1 overall pick?
“I don’t think that’s a place for me to say. He’s a good football player. Everything that is coming his way he has worked hard for.”
Zion Tupuola-Fetui (Washington) Defensive Lineman
This past season you played in some competitive games, including against USC and Caleb Williams. What was that experience like for you?
“I think, I wouldn’t say I was in awe of the moment or anything like that, but I definitely thought that he was a specimen to behold. I remember after the first drive, we came off and me and Bralen (Trice) were like, ‘Did you see that guy’s legs. You know.’ Like it was all coming in like, ‘Oh, wow. Yeah, this guy won the Heisman. You know, let’s lock in and play some good football.’ Yeah, he’s definitely, you know he’s going to have a great career and everything like that, that comes with being that talented. But, yeah, I remember the first time I see him, I was like, ‘Oh, he’s not just on tape anymore.’ He had a pretty good game against us.”
You got a 1.5 sacks in that game. What was that like, especially since he is an elusive guy?
“Definitely gratifying. He got the better of me a couple plays in there. He’s super talented. I think he sees the field in a very unique way. There’s even a point in the game where he like threw a slow-motion spin move and it actually worked. I’m not going to say who it was on, but I think he’s super creative and he sees the game very well. When I did get to him, especially being able to get the ball out, happy I was able to make the most of that moment.”
So, do you think Caleb Williams is deserving to be the No. 1 overall pick? Right now the Bears have that pick, but they also have Justin Fields.
“I think it’s tough. I don’t think you’re really wrong either way. I think how they go about it is how they will make it into the correct answer. If they choose to go with Fields, I think he is a very talented quarterback. You know, he just needs some consistency at coordinator maybe or something like that. Maybe some weapons. Yeah, I think if you go that route, then you got to go and give him weapons with that pick. Whether you can choose the best receiver or trade down and get two first-round picks and get him two weapons or you go the Caleb route then you have to make the most out of what you can of Justin Fields. It can only be wrong if they think it’s a one move type of thing. Like they’re not just going to plug Caleb in and all of a sudden the Bears are a playoff contender. You’re not just going to stick with Justin and run it back and hope for the best. Either way they got to improve what they got going.”
Solomon Byrd (USC) Defensive Lineman
What is Caleb Williams like in practice?
“It got very normal really fast with all the crazy throws he will make and all the whacky body positions he will put himself in. I got really used to seeing that. As far as containing the pocket and stuff, he’s the best at extending plays and breaking down defenses. So we see that a lot.”
You say you get used to it, but are there still times that you get surprised? How long did it take you to get used to Williams’ throwing ability?
“I don’t think Caleb, after this past year, he didn’t get me with a crazy throw because I just seen it and he does it all the time. But more so what he does with his feet, cause at practice we are not touching him. But when he gets in the game and he’s making guys fall over and he’s running guys over, that’s when I’m like, ‘Wow, this guy is crazy.'”
How would you describe Caleb Williams as a leader and what he is like off the football field?
“Caleb is a dude. I mean he is one of us, the guys, like if Caleb didn’t have his face so to speak, you wouldn’t the difference between Caleb and another guy. He’s one of us. He’s one of us.”
Caleb has a lot of outside interests like a lot of people. Business being one of them and building his own brand. Did that ever rub teammates the wrong way?
“First of all, I think a lot of us think what he’s doing is a cool thing rather than there is no jealousy there. Like I said, he’s one of us. … We’re all happy for him when he does stuff like that. It’s not, I don’t know how the media views it, but it’s not negative at all.”
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