Fourteen months ago, the USC quarterback Caleb Williams Oklahoma had a freshman backup in the Red River Rivalry game against Texas, hoping to give the Sooners a spark.
Now, the 20-year-old has won the Heisman Trophy.
On Saturday in New York, Williams — as he has done on the field this year — made sure the Heisman was his, winning college football’s most outstanding player in a decisive victory. Williams beat Georgia Stetson Bennettof TCU Max Duggan and Ohio State CJ Strode for the award.
Williams received 544 first-place votes. His 2,031 points easily beat Duggan, who finished second. Strode finished third, followed by Bennett.
“I may be standing up here today, but you all have to go to the College Football Playoff,” Williams said in his acceptance speech, before the other finalists saluted him. “I guess you can’t win ’em all.”
In 13 games this season, the former five-star recruit from the Washington, D.C., area has thrown for 4,075 yards and 37 touchdowns, rushed for 372 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, along with just four interceptions. .
He did it with a consistent performance and a series of highlight plays that left teammates, coaches and fans in awe. His creativity and vision almost never threw the ball away when plays broke down, instead turning scramble plays and potential sacks into electric runs or miraculous passes.
Williams’ performance went beyond numbers and highlights. After head coach Lincoln Riley departed Oklahoma for USC in November 2021, Williams followed and led the Trojans’ turnaround from a 4-8 season to an 11-win team.
“Although this is a personal award, I certainly understand that nothing is done alone in this game or in life,” Williams said.
Under Williams, USC started 8-0 for the first time since 2006 and beat rivals UCLA and Notre Dame in the same season for the first time since 2016.
Despite his age, he was given an important responsibility as Williams moved through the transfer portal from Norman, Oklahoma to Los Angeles to join the relay. He is one of the only players who knows Riley’s style and his offense very well. At the age of 19, Williams became one of the team’s captains and second coach on the field.
Although the Trojans fell one game short of winning the Pac-12 title and playing in the College Football Playoff, Williams’ leadership helped the Trojans make one of the game’s best turnarounds in a year since transferring to USC. Both Williams and USC are likely to enter 2024 as Heisman and title contenders, respectively.
A product of Gonzaga College High School in Washington, Williams is the seventh official USC player to win the award (despite Reggie Bush’s 2005 Heisman vacancy) and the third quarterback from the school. He is the first Trojans quarterback to win since Matt Leinart in 2004.