From now on, when you go down the list of the greatest players in USC history — a list of luminaries from Matthews to Lott to Allen to Seau to Swann to Polamalu — Caleb Williams’ name will have to be included.
The sophomore quarterback etched his name into the history of USC and college football on Saturday night, being named the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner in a ceremony at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Williams received 544 of 863 first-place votes. TCU quarterback Max Duggan came in second, while Ohio State QB and former Rancho Cucamonga standout C.J. Stroud came in third.
Williams, who transferred to USC from Oklahoma in February, is the first Trojan to win the award since Reggie Bush in 2005 and the eighth Trojan overall, a record for any single program. And he is the third Heisman winner coached by head coach Lincoln Riley, who had two quarterbacks win the award with the Sooners.
“To now be a part of this historic fraternity is truly an honor,” Williams said during his acceptance speech, “and something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
It was Riley that Williams followed from Norman to Los Angeles, believing the coach and school would be the right opportunity for him. The coach watched on with tears in his eyes as Williams thanked him.
“We committed to each other on two separate occasions but with the same dream,” Williams said. “They say you either change your dreams or change your habits, and I damn sure wasn’t going to change my dreams. Glad you didn’t change yours, either.”
After quickly establishing himself as a leader at USC, Williams was voted captain by his teammates after his first fall camp. His exuberance and confidence made it easy for the returning players from last year’s 4-8 to buy into Williams’ as the Trojans’ new quarterback.
Once the season began, it became clear that Williams would repay the faith. The sophomore threw for 4,075 yards and set a record for USC quarterbacks with 372 rushing yards. His 47 total touchdowns (37 through the air) were also a USC record.
Williams lifted USC to an 11-2 record and an appearance in the Pac-12 championship game. He found different ways to lead the Trojans to victory, whether it was throwing for five touchdowns against Arizona or running for three against Notre Dame.
Through it all, Williams did it with his own unapologetic emotion and style. He wore flashy outfits before home games and painted his nails each week, a tradition he’s carried since high school in Washington, D.C.
That style carried over to Manhattan. He wore a tan plaid Gucci suit with three white stripes going up the sides of the pants and jacket.
He made sure his offensive line was in attendance, calling each out by name and saying the Heisman was “our accomplishment.” And former USC Heisman winners Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer and Mike Garrett stood behind him on stage in New York to the see the torch passed to the next generation of Trojan.
Soon those USC luminaries will need to return to the Coliseum when Williams’ No. 13 jersey is revealed next to theirs near the Peristyle.
But Williams saved his most heartfelt thanks for his father, Carl, and mother, Dayna Price.
“Thank you for always being my mom first. The woman behind the scenes who has a smile on her face and is willing to help others,” Williams said. “To the old man over there, he always walks to the beat of his own drum. Thank you for showing me the way. You instilled a work ethic in me at a young age and I can’t thank you enough for it.”
Tears shed, trophy lifted, legacy secured, Williams closed his speech, “Dreams really do come true. Thank you, and fight on.”