Last February, when Caleb Williams arrived in Los Angeles, he bore the burden of immense anticipation as the quarterback, being the most sought-after transfer in college football.
USC, after a decade of scandal and disappointment, has anointed him as the rising star in the sport’s history, seeing him as the player best suited to revive the dormant powerhouse. The stakes have been raised and the pressure invested in him as he announces himself as the football college’s top player. The rest of the country is dismayed by his exit from Oklahoma and questions him.
Following Reggie Bush in 2005, Williams became the initial Trojan to secure the prestigious accolade, as he raised the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, ultimately achieving the formal crowning.
Despite joining the Heisman conversation late this season, Williams emerged as the clear winner, triumphing over Max Duggan from Texas Christian, C.J. Stroud from Ohio State, and Stetson Bennett from Georgia. Each of them will now have a chance to compete for a national title as their consolation prize.
In the Pac-12 championship match, USC was defeated by Utah despite the quarterback’s valiant attempt to overcome a painful hamstring injury, as Williams’ outstanding season would come to a close just shy of achieving those identical accomplishments.
Williams told the other finalists, “I suppose you can’t emerge victorious in every situation, but all of you have the opportunity to attend the College Football Playoff. I, on the other hand, might be the one standing here today.”
Despite finishing second, third, and fourth, respectively, and leading their teams to the national semifinals, Duggan, Stroud, and Bennett still couldn’t match Williams’ dominance. Williams, who received 2,031 total points and 544 first-place votes, entered Saturday’s ceremony as the overwhelming favorite for the Heisman Trophy, showcasing the immense impact he had at USC this season.
Anticipated, twenty-four previous recipients of the Heisman, which includes three of the remaining seven ex-Trojan awardees, gathered at the Lincoln Center. Williams, adorned in a checkered Gucci attire, assumed his position at a lectern on the stage upon the announcement of his name as the 87th recipient of the esteemed accolade.
Williams is the eighth player from USC to take home the Heisman Trophy, even though USC saw Bush, who was a finalist in 2005, have his trophy stripped after the NCAA levied sanctions against USC for violations. He still officially acknowledges the Trust of the Heisman Trophy, even though no school has had their Heisman Trophy stripped like USC.
Gonzaga College at Mary High School is renowned for its legendary Breakfast Club workouts at 5:30 a.M. When his coach told him that he was deemed “too small” to play in the championship game, Carl shed tears. His father assured him that he could achieve greatness and spoke to him as Carl reflected on these pivotal moments that shaped him.
“Williams stated,” I used to write down my goals in a journal, and today I find myself here, reflecting on what words to use in this piece of paper and.”
During this season, Williams found himself in a rather challenging position, surpassing the previous accomplishments of USC’s previous winners. He experienced his fair share of obstacles and setbacks, but he persevered for a remarkable 10 months at USC.
In the later years of 1968 and 1965, Allen Marcus and Charles White would go on to win two national championships at USC, with Marcus hoisting the trophy in the previous year. USC had already established a strong presence in power football under John McKay, with O.J. Simpson and Mike Garrett rolling to Heisman wins when they were running backs.
Perhaps, Carson Palmer, who only quarterbacked the Trojans and transitioned from Paul Hackett to Pete Carroll, could relate to how far USC had to carry his Heisman campaign, even though he had three seasons to find his stride before Matt Leinart in 2004 and Reggie Bush in 2005, who would later produce two Heisman winners and two national titles, came alive under Carroll.
“I have been absolutely amazed while observing him,” The Los Angeles Times informed Palmer. “I observed the team compete the previous year. It was challenging. It was agonizing to witness. Therefore, witnessing the swift transformation of events… Individuals are finally beginning to acknowledge that this individual is the most exceptional player in the nation.”
Leinart went even more distant.
He expressed his opinion about Williams, stating that he is extremely exceptional. “He is truly one of a kind, with his remarkable talent and the incredible things he accomplishes on the field. No one else can match his abilities, not even at the higher level.”
When Williams took over, there was no serious talk of Heisman hopefuls or national titles at USC, at least not outside the confines of the Heritage Hall. The previous season had completely unraveled into a disastrous 8-4 campaign, with two frustrating weeks just before the firing of coach Clay Helton, who was foremost in the football program.
Riley Lincoln, the new coach of USC, promised to bring prominence back to the team while taking over in November of last year. He left Oklahoma, where he had chosen his star quarterback, to fulfill the necessary requirements for his services.
The conversation turned out to be a turning point in the storied history of USC football, as the coach referred to it as a mark. The quarterback was on a vacation alone, walking on a beach in Florida, trying to clear his head about his entrance into the transfer portal. He knew that Williams could be the crown jewel of the class-transfer 25, and when Riley’s rebuild was well underway, he rang him. He knew that he could mend some fences with Williams and convince him to follow him.
“As soon as we began conversing,” Williams stated this week, “it resumed once more.”
The discussion, as it unfolded, would signify a pivotal moment in the renowned chronicles of USC football.
Jalen hurts, a finalist for the Heisman trophy, has also experienced success under the leadership of Riley’s offensive scheme, just like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, the three Heisman winners. In his second season at the helm of the team, Williams has even surpassed their achievements since 2008. The Trojans, who won 11 out of their first 12 games, would see a renewed partnership that would serve as a catalyst for a complete turnaround, marking the first time since 2008.
On Saturday night, USC’s coach Riley-coached two other quarterbacks watched bleary-eyed as Williams, who began his fourth career at another school as a transfer in 2017, accepted the trophy and took it home, having graced the stage like the two other quarterbacks.
Riley said, “particularly that youth,” possesses a unique drive and self-assurance. Everyone has an opinion, and the entire world judges and observes your successes and failures. You have to perform like a quarterback in these situations. When you fall, there’s no one there to catch you, and when you succeed, there are people trying to bring you down. It takes courage to become a starting quarterback at a prestigious college or university, and he did so by taking over two renowned programs in an unconventional manner.”
This year, Williams recorded 47 touchdowns (with 10 on the field), the highest number among all college football players. In the history of USC, his 4,075 passing yards rank as the second-highest in a single season — and the sixth-highest in the country this year — while his 372 rushing yards are the greatest for any USC quarterback.
If Williams is able to play in the next month’s Cotton Bowl, he is likely to break nearly all of the Trojans’ single-season passing records by the end of the season.
The stats of Williams may be the case for further fortifying his Heisman campaign, as his remarkable performance in this season has been shaped by his formative role in USC’s renaissance. His teammates say that the quarterback transfer has brought a changing culture, previously torn at the seams, and stepped into the locker room with a confident swagger.
Williams stated that if they were not present, he would have declined to attend the ceremony. Taking the stage, he traveled to New York and individually expressed gratitude to all the USC offensive linemen, who were seated in the gallery at Lincoln Center. The impact of their presence was evident on Saturday night.
“While this may be an individual award, I certainly understand that nothing, in this sport or life, is done alone,” Williams said.
There was never a question this season at USC about the significance of Williams to that equation.
“He preserved our lives,” expressed Shane Lee, a linebacker and USC leader. “He is the life force of this team.”
Justin Dedich added, “It’s incredible, the things he is capable of doing.”
Upon the insistence of his fellow teammates, he assumed the iconic Heisman stance on the sideline of USC that evening. For a short period, the audacious getaways and accurate long-distance throws propelled USC ahead of the Irish and into the College Football Playoff semifinals. Many would likely attribute his spectacular, four-touchdown display against Notre Dame as his official crowning achievement. There was no specific Heisman instance that would distinguish Williams on his journey towards the esteemed accolade. There was not a singular defining match.
“He’s the one,” stated receiver Jordan Addison, who that evening attached an imaginary crown to his quarterback’s head.
The paranormal strategy seemed to frequently astonish his opponents. In the previous week, the Utah linebacker executed a mesmerizing spin move, leaving his defender in awe. Williams appeared to effortlessly conjure a stunning play in each consecutive game. Against Colorado, he threw a touchdown pass without looking, and during the game-winning drive against Oregon State, he darted through the defense. Additionally, his 75-yard score against Stanford seemed effortless. As the regular season came to a close, Williams’ extraordinary skills had become almost routine.
“I believe it’s dark sorcery,” Travis Dye, USC’s primary running back, expressed earlier this season. “I don’t comprehend it either!”
On his path to the Heisman Trophy, Williams has already exceeded every possible expectation, dazzling and dancing his way into the record books at USC. In just one season, he has left an indelible mark. But before his NFL calling comes, Williams will have another shot at leading USC to a national title in the College Football Playoff. However, with tears welling in his eyes and searing pain coursing through his hamstring, Williams ultimately ran out of magic in Las Vegas.