Caleb Williams burst onto the national scene in 2021 as a true freshman quarterback and immediately became one of the most electric playmakers in college football. His jaw-dropping performances helped lead the USC Trojans to new heights and captured the attention of fans across the country. But to fully understand Caleb’s breakthrough stardom, one must first learn about his remarkable journey to become USC’s starter so early in his career.
From High School Star to Underdog Freshman
Caleb showed promise at a young age, starring as the quarterback at Ocean Lakes High School in his hometown of Virginia Beach. He put up huge numbers his senior year, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 50 touchdowns to earn Gatorade Virginia Player of the Year honors. Natually, Caleb was eager to test himself at the college level and committed to play for then-USC head coach Clay Helton.
However, upon arriving at USC in 2021, Caleb faced an uncertain role. The Trojans were coming off a down season and had two veteran QBs ahead of him on the depth chart in Kedon Slovis and Jaxson Dart. Both Slovis and Dart had started games in the past, so Caleb expected to sit and learn as a true freshman. But a shakeup at the position was looming that would change Caleb’s fortunes.
Emerging as the Starter
In USC’s season opener against San Jose State, Slovis got injured and was lost for the year. Dart came in but struggled, forcing Helton to turn to Caleb late in the blowout win. While it was in mop-up duty, Caleb showed flashes with his mobility and arm strength. The next week against Stanford, Dart also went down hurt, paving the way for Caleb’s first career start.
All he did was complete 30-of-41 passes for 341 yards and touchdowns in a 45-14 rout of the Cardinal. Caleb had announced his arrival on the big stage in spectacular fashion. From that point on, he seized control of the starting job and never looked back despite his young age. Caleb went on to put up video game numbers, leading many to wonder – who is this phenom quarterback?
Dominating the Pac-12
Over the rest of the 2021 season, Caleb cemented himself not just as USC’s starter but one of the best players in the entire Pac-12 conference. He lit up opposing secondaries to the tune of over 4,000 total yards and 47 total touchdowns, setting numerous Trojans and freshman records along the way.
Caleb led USC to a come-from-behind overtime win at Oregon State that exposed the team’s mental toughness. He passionately willed the Trojans in the fourth quarter of an epic rivalry game at UCLA. And Caleb topped it all off by accounting for 6 touchdowns against rival Notre Dame, even throwing for over 500 yards in a miracle comeback victory. By year’s end, he had USC poised to potentially crash the College Football Playoff.
Winning the Heisman Trophy
Thanks to his awe-inspiring play, Caleb entered 2022 as one of the Heisman Trophy front-runners and top returning players in the country. He kicked off his sophomore campaign by dominating Rice with 5 touchdown passes. From there, Caleb continued adding to his highlight reel with brilliant performances in wins over Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State.
The pinnacle was an epic showdown with revitalized Oregon in mid-October, with Caleb dueled two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Kayvon Thibodeaux. He carried his team to a comeback overtime victory with interception and a game-winning scoring run. That signature performance helped Caleb lock up the Heisman Trophy to become the first USC player ever to win the award. His efforts spearheaded the Trojans to their first Pac-12 title in over a decade and a Rose Bowl appearance. At just 20 years old, Caleb seemed like he was only scratching the surface of his enormous potential.
Caleb Williams rewrote the record books at USC and took the college football world by storm as a can’t-miss superstar. His emergence from unheralded recruit to Heisman winner in just two short years stands as one of the most improbable yet inspiring rises in recent memory. With two more seasons of eligibility left, Caleb will look to add more championship hardware and cement his legacy as one of the all-time great Trojans. His story is still being written, but it is abundantly clear that Caleb is bound for yet even greater heights as his career continues to ascend.