Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Joe Montana Helped Convince The Bears To Draft Caleb Williams


The decision to draft Caleb Williams didn’t come out of nowhere for the Chicago Bears. It involved a long, detailed evaluation process that required several key moments to make a reality. There were, of course, the many outstanding on-the-field highlights with his ridiculous throws and heady improvisational plays. Coaches and teammates sang his praises at every opportunity, painting the picture of somebody with a relentless work ethic and excellent leadership. However, it is often the overlooked moments that tell the biggest story. GM Ryan Poles found his when he saw Williams interact with Joe Montana.

Nobody would’ve guessed the four-time Super Bowl champion would have any role to play in this. The quarterbacks most often mentioned by Williams or others close to him are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson. Montana retired in 1995. Williams wasn’t even born until 2001. It is hard to imagine how the San Francisco 49ers icon could have any influence on the young quarterback’s path to Chicago. However, according to Albert Breer of the MMQB, that is exactly what happened when USC went to Notre Dame last season.

It all started with a glance.

The USC offense was wrapping up warmups. The punt team was coming on. The Trojans’ reigning Heisman-winning quarterback, Caleb Williams, had looked over to the Irish sideline earlier, and spotted Notre Dame icon, and NFL legend, Joe Montana. Sensing the timing was right, he put his head down and went.

Poles watched intently.

Williams was born in November 2001, nearly seven years after Montana played his last game. Some of his contemporaries wouldn’t even know who Montana was, let alone recognize him in street clothes. But here was Williams, preparing for his final shot at Notre Dame as USC quarterback, compelled to pay homage to one of the game’s greats.

“They went to do some special teams things, he took his helmet off, ran over and shook his hand,” Poles said Thursday. “For a young kid to go up to a quarterback like that, Hall of Famer, and not as an, I’m in the same circle as you, but I look up to you, and, yet, there wasn’t this college fear of talking to an adult. He did it with confidence and swagger, but a ton of respect and humility at the same time—I couldn’t get that out of my mind.”

Greeting Joe Montana showed Williams was a football junky.

Many young quarterbacks likely wouldn’t know who he is. Their memories are filled with guys like Brady, Rodgers, Wilson, Peyton Manning, and Patrick Mahomes. They aren’t interested in generations long past. It is hard for them to understand how great Montana was. He was the one who influenced Brady during his childhood. Greatness is greatness, no matter how long ago it took place. Williams demonstrated his understanding of this when he made the effort to shake Joe’s hand.

Poles is somebody else who appreciates football history. That is likely one of the reasons he wanted the Bears job in the first place. Turning around this storied organization has been a dream since he briefly tasted that history as an undrafted rookie in 2008. When Williams showed that same appreciation with the gesture to Joe Montana last year, it was the first confirmation that this kid was one to watch. More boxes would get checked from there until it became impossible to ignore.

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This was their guy. Don’t forget the Bears almost drafted Montana back in 1979. They were about to turn the card in and everything before GM Jim Finks backed out. Maybe this is a sign the football gods are finally smiling down on them.


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May 6, 2024 4:13 pm

When you need help from everyone else, you cease to have a mind of your own.

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