Who Is The Real Caleb Williams? Unbiased Insights On The USC Trojans Quarterback.

Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

As the NFL combine is wrapping up this weekend, it’s time to set the record straight on perhaps the most polarizing player in college football today, 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams. There are more concurrent narratives about Williams than a mid-2010s HBO script. From his family to his fingernails, everyone seems to have a point of view in vilifying, valorizing, or vindicating this possible generational talent. Without further ado, a humble offer of objectivity.

His Tears: Non-Issue

So much has been made of Williams’ tears after losses the past two years including an intimate moment of consolation with his mother after the USC-Utah game. Kobe Bryant famously cried after the Laker’s 3-peat reign ended in 2003. Michael Jordan shed tears after his breakthrough first championship in 1991 and again in his triumphant return to the mountaintop on Father’s Day in 1996. Tom Brady choked up when talking about his father being his enduring hero during Super Bowl Radio Row. All were acclaimed and mythologized for demonstrating this emotion. The fact individuals out there are weaponizing his emotions is unfair, unprofessional, and borderline unethical. This is a non-story.

NCAA Football: PAC-12 Football Championship-Southern California at Utah
Caleb Williams: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

His Fingernails: Slight Issue

Williams has famously painted his fingernails with messages over the past two years given his mother’s expertise with manicure artistry. The exposure of this activity has been tied to charitable contributions through Williams’ name, image, and likeness…a very noble act.

The only reason this isn’t a non-issue is because Williams didn’t have to put “f***” on his fingers when addressing his opponents. The whole act of charity is to provide aid to those in need while maintaining their dignity. Using explicit profanity to address his opponents contradicts his charitable intentions because it unnecessarily denigrates others and ironically undoes the essence of his original actions. It’s clear he has learned and been advised not to do that anymore, as evidenced by a notable reduction in promoting his fingernail messages in the past few months. We can all since move on.

NFL: Combine
Caleb Williams NFL Combine: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

His Media Relations: Moderate Issue

Caleb Williams has been taken to the proverbial interview woodshed the past few days, minesweeping questions spanning his unwillingness to participate in the combine to his competitive character to his medical information releases. The source of this contention has stemmed from Caleb’s unwillingness to be available to the media after losses, particularly after November’s Victory Bell Game, the annual USC-UCLA game.

The media has an elephant’s memory and only by making yourself available when things are going well has two negative consequences: a.) it portrays a lack of personal accountability, and b.) it takes clicks, eyeballs, and views away from media members covering you.

While the former point simply requires a bit of public relations coaching, it’s the latter point that can get Caleb into tangible future trouble. Jordan and LeBron James have masterfully leveraged the media as an ally throughout their careers, as they profoundly understood the importance of that dynamic would have a consequential impact on their marketability, endorsements, and future earnings. Given the involvement of Caleb’s family and “team” (a LeBron coined term circa 2010 decision), he will learn how to better engage more consistently and holistically. It’s not an insignificant issue, but certainly a correctable one.

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Louisville at Southern California
Caleb Williams Holiday Bowl: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Williams’ Leadership: Real Issue

Now we get to the meat and potatoes of the matter. The ONLY question that should matter to owners, general managers, coaches, and investors of these NFL teams is: “Why did USC have their best performance of the 2023 season without you?”

It’s that simple, everything else is simply the noise of the media trying to make their monthly rents. The answer to that singular question will determine if an NFL team makes him their franchise investment or trades that pick so somebody else does.

Was it because Miller Moss was overprepared? Was Louisville unmotivated? Players with a chip on their shoulder after a disappointing season? Or was there some disconnect, friction, or breakdown that went away with Caleb’s departure from team activities?

The quality, granularity, and fidelity of that answer is all that should be discussed and assessed…because his on-field talent is undeniable. In the process of that discovery, we will learn who the real Caleb Williams is. A transcendent talent that was the heir to some unfortunate timing and circumstances that enabled the media to run brushfire wild with artificial narratives? Or a highly-skilled, yet emotionally flawed prospect that
demonstrates narcissistic tendencies above team structure?

Will the real Caleb Williams please stand up?