All roads lead to Caleb Williams, and the Bears should feel good about that


ORLANDO, Fla. — When the Bears were at dinner with Caleb Williams and some of his USC teammates last week before USC’s pro day, something the quarterback didn’t do resonated with them.

Williams left his phone alone.

There wasn’t any texting, TikToking or Snapchatting.

“One of my guys kind of bumped me on it — which I think is rare these days for a 22-year-old — he never touched his phone,” Poles said Monday at the NFL owners’ meetings. “So (he was) really intentional with his conversations and talking about his interests and things he likes to do. So, really good touchpoint.”

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At the dinner with Williams in California, Poles was joined by assistant general manager Ian Cunningham, coach Matt Eberflus, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, passing game coordinator Thomas Brown and quarterbacks coach Kerry Joseph. Some USC receivers also were there.

“When you talk to his teammates, they don’t like him, they love him,” Poles said. “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 (doesn’t think) that he can reach the highest limits. The feedback’s been good.”

Of course, that’s great for the Bears. Poles won’t say today which player the Bears will select with the first pick. “Hopefully, it just hits me,” he said.

But all roads continue to lead to Williams with the first selection. It’s difficult for Poles to hide that. There is really no reason to. The detour that could have been evaluating Williams as the first name, image and likeness superstar of college football has become more beneficial than detrimental.

“With the NIL deal, there’s pros and cons,” Poles said. “I’m starting to learn that … when we gather information, it’s actually pretty helpful. It puts these guys in a spotlight. It gives them more responsibility. It forces them to prioritize — money, business, football, school. How do they handle that? What kind of structure do they put around them to make sure they’re making good decisions? Do they have people that can say, ‘No, that’s not going to fit with my timeline’? So I think there’s some positives there, and I’m picking that up.”

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All of it could reveal more about the players but also provide more information about those they have around them. Right now, the Bears say they feel good about everything. In September, Williams provided all of his USC teammates with custom Beats by Dre headphones. The USC women’s soccer team also received them. It came through one of his NIL deals.

“The cool thing is you do have some resources to take your O-line out to dinner,” Poles said. “You see the Christmas gifts that the NFL guys do. So (it’s) really bringing those guys together, spending time creating that bond is really what you’re looking for in that position. And he’s done that.”

Poles is being open-minded. College football won’t be the same again — and he’s embracing the differences with Williams. He’s not worried that Williams lacks typical representation from an NFLPA-certified agent. Instead, he understands where Williams — who has already made millions through NIL deals — is coming from.

“With the draft process, it doesn’t make it too difficult,” Poles said of Williams not having an agent. “There are some little things, communication, just understanding the landscape of that is probably one of the more negative things. But there’s probably a lot of pros, too, in his situation specifically.”

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The Bears will also host Williams (and other quarterbacks and players) soon at Halas Hall. Williams will visit the team during the first week of April. The Bears will also get their medical evaluation of Williams then after he passed on the exams at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Poles and the Bears’ work on the quarterback class also will continue this week. Poles and Eberflus will head to LSU after the NFL owners’ meetings. Poles won’t attend North Carolina’s pro day for quarterback Drake Maye, but the Bears will have a contingent present.

At LSU, Poles and company will get to see quarterback Jayden Daniels work out and get a close look at receivers Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. during their pro day. Poles, Eberflus and the Bears also attended Michigan’s pro day on Friday with quarterback J.J. McCarthy throwing again.

“We’re going to continue the process,” Poles said. “We’ll continue to evaluate everybody. As I said before, we gain clarity as we move forward, which is a good thing. But we also want to make sure that we continue and finish the process with the rest of the class, too.”

Soon after that, it’ll be time to make the selection.

(Top photo: Kevin Terrell / Associated Press)





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