Drafted by Bears 25 years ago, another QB from L.A. shares advice for Caleb Williams

?url=https%3A%2F%2Fcalifornia times brightspot.s3.amazonaws.com%2F79%2Fae%2Fdf2ed83a42a5a55f06e7e60396ef%2F1213426 sp ucla arizona031 ls

Twenty-five years ago, UCLA quarterback Cade McNown was selected 12th overall by the Chicago Bears and spent the 1999 and 2000 seasons with them. He later was a backup with the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers. He spoke to Times NFL writer Sam Farmer about what he learned in Chicago.

On Thursday, the Bears made USC quarterback Caleb Williams the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft.

There are lots of opportunities and lots of challenges ahead for Caleb Williams. And even though it has been 25 years, I still have vivid memories of those times.

The good and bad of it for Caleb and Bears fans is there’s been a long trail of tears when it comes to quarterbacks and Chicago, and this is another chance to alter that trajectory.

If I were talking to Caleb, and I hope I will at some point, I’d say, “Listen, you’re getting drafted based on what you did and what people think you can do in the NFL, but not based on what you have done in the NFL. That’s really what’s going to matter.”

It’s day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year that you’ve got to build your reputation as a professional, as somebody who really needs to earn your way into the job. Even though they’ll tell you, “You’re this, that and the other,” you really need to earn it. Otherwise, they take it all away from you.

I didn’t live up to those lofty expectations, but I learned a lot in the process.

It’s not always easy to talk to a 22-year-old, especially one who suddenly has money to go along with fame, but if I were to go back and talk to that younger me, here are some lessons I would share:

Focus on football, not on the stuff you can buy. There always will be time for that later.

When I was coming in, that’s the first time you really have two nickels to rub together. You immediately start spending some time buying things. Caleb’s financial situation is different. He made money at USC. Hopefully that’s all out of his system for the most part.

I would tell anybody, “Don’t spend time other than to connect with teammates, work out, study film. Don’t spend time buying houses, furnishing houses, any of that stuff.”

Tomorrow’s not promised to anybody. Just because you’ve been drafted as the future, you have to live in the present. The future can be taken away immediately, whether it’s an injury, underperformance, maybe things just don’t come together. You have to focus on being a true professional and look at the other guys who have been doing it for eight, 10, 12, 15 years. Observe what they’re doing and try to imitate them.

Try to stay under the radar.

People who enjoy being brash will continue to do that. But given the option, I would choose to be low-key and just a hard worker, somebody who has his head down and is all about playing football. That’s it. Everything else will take care of itself.

The guys that choose the other path, if they play well, they’ll get away with it and everybody will love it. But gosh, the moment it goes the other way, look out. Here comes the pile-on.

If you keep the under-the-radar approach — remember it’s a team sport and you’re there to support the team — you get a much longer leash. People want you to succeed as opposed to wanting you to fail so they can pile on.

You may have the keys to the franchise, but they’re only on loan to you.

What I didn’t realize was, when you play for the Bears, that is Chicago’s team. More than most NFL clubs, fans essentially own that team. Therefore, you are Chicago’s property. So people are coming up slapping you on the back, space invaders like you can’t believe. It’s all with the nicest of intent. But it’s like, you play for their team, the team they’ve been watching for 60 years.

They eat, sleep and breathe this stuff. They can’t get enough of it. And now you’re on their team. You’d better recognize that going in. It’s very different.

The perspective: This is our team. It’s currently on loan to you. You’ve got to earn your spot, because right now you’re an interloper. But if you perform and you deliver, now you’ve got a seat at the table. Until then, you’ve got to prove it.

Always remember you are under a microscope.

When I played for the Bears, a small thing I did became a big issue. I put my hat on backward. All of a sudden, I’m being compared to Jim McMahon — and it didn’t help that my last name started with a “Mc” too.

I have an unbelievable amount of respect for what Jim McMahon was able to do as quarterback of the Super Bowl-winning Bears, but he and I couldn’t have been more different. But that didn’t stop people from going right in there and drawing these comparisons.

It was totally unintentional for me, but immediately all the comparisons and talk was connecting me and McMahon. Shoot, I never had a drop of alcohol when I played for the Bears. I don’t think I had a glass of wine until I was probably 25 or 26. Jim McMahon was a wild man when he played.

Don’t get fixated on what people are saying, but don’t completely ignore it, either.

Looking back, I wish I would have paid more attention to people’s views because it would have informed a couple of things and how I dealt with folks, as opposed to ignoring the media.

I was trained on this early: “Ignore it all.” That’s kind of the easiest path. But the reality is you need to be strong enough to be able to know what’s being said, not let it impact you in a negative way, but be able to manage it so you know where things are going.

If you’re strong enough and confident enough to be able to read some of this stuff, understand how people perceive you, then you will know how to handle it better.

Embrace the history of it all.

I watched a “30 for 30” on the 1985 Bears. That should be required viewing for Caleb.

I’m a big believer that when you come into something new, you’ve got to understand the history and the context and what you’re walking into. I was a history major in college. I’m a believer in the more you understand what you’re involved with, the better chance you have of managing your way through it.

At the end of the day, it still comes down to what you do on the field.

Enjoy this. You’re now part of one of the most storied franchises in the NFL. You are in a special place.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top