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Behind the Scenes: Three hours after the pick with Caleb Williams

Millions of fans at home and more than 275,000 people on site in Detroit watched the top 32 college prospects realize their dream in Round 1 of the NFL Draft Thursday night. While viewers see the new draftees receive the life-changing call and walk across the stage to hug commissioner Roger Goodell, what happens after the rookie is whisked away backstage?

Go behind-the-scenes with the No. 1 overall pick and new Bears quarterback Caleb Williams at the NFL Draft during his three-hour journey from the green room to the stage to his final media stop that ended with an emotional moment.

Story by Gabby Hajduk, photos by Jacob Funk & NFL/AP photographers

Williams accomplished the number one goal he had been working toward since he was a 12-year-old boy in Washington, D.C., when he received the call from Bears general manager Ryan Poles at 7:14 p.m. CT.

He spoke with Poles, coach Matt Eberflus and President & CEO Kevin Warren, who all expressed excitement about selecting the USC superstar.


Williams kept a calm demeanor on the phone, but he released his emotions immediately upon hanging up.

The Bears officially submitted their first No. 1 overall pick since 1947 at 7:17 p.m. Two minutes later, Williams let out a yell as he walked out of the tunnel and across the stage to accept his jersey from Goodell. Before heading off stage, Williams blew kisses to the crowd and showed off a couple dance moves to commemorate the special moment.

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After a quick on-stage interview with ESPN reporter Molly McGrath, Williams made his way to the Bears' inner circle where 15 diehard fans properly greeted him with cheers. He capped off the fan experience by taking a selfie with the crowd.

Williams then disappeared backstage where he went through a photoshoot with the NFL and reunited with his family and friends, who all sported Bears draft hats for a group picture.


He made his way to the draft's media center on a golf cart, arriving at 7:34 p.m. — prepared to spend the next couple hours circulating through interviews, sponsor activations and friendly interactions with anyone he crossed paths with. His first stop included autographing a Bears jersey, helmet and draft hat — his first signatures as an NFL player.

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The Bears then introduced Williams to his new team's fanbase in an incredible way - by having him be in two places at one time! The Bears beamed Williams live from Detroit into the Miller Lite Draft Party at Soldier Field. He was able to see and hear the fanbase go wild, be interviewed by the voice of the Bears, Jeff Joniak, and take in Soldier Field as he was introduced as their #1 pick.

Williams then met with team reporter Lauren Screeden and broke down his custom navy blue Chrome Hearts suit with silver accents — an outfit he had been eager to show off for weeks. He gave fans a peek at his favorite outfit detail — a one-of-one Chicago-inspired Chrome Hearts shirt that he wore underneath his double-breasted jacket.


As Williams walked through the media center to meet with Chicago reporters via Zoom, the Bears inched closer to being on the clock with their No. 9 pick. He made sure to keep an eye on every TV he passed, eagerly awaiting the announcement of his newest teammate. While staring at the broadcast, Williams repeatedly said, "take my guy, take my guy."


Just before heading into an NFL activation at 8:12, Williams saw that the Bears did select "his guy" — Washington receiver Rome Odunze at No. 9. He yelled, "Let's go!" and later added, "I got my receiver for the next 10 years."

After celebrating the pick momentarily, Williams entered the activation. He joined a video call with some of his teammates from USC, who voiced their pride and excitement in seeing him get selected first overall.


Between stops, Williams quickly met up with Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin, who congratulated him on the special night.

Williams continued through consecutive interviews, hitting various radio outlets like Sirius XM — which included talking with former Bears quarterback Jim Miller — Westwood One and ESPN. He spoke extensively about his motivations that led him to the NFL, the importance of his family, his desire to win and his excitement to join Odunze in Chicago.


Williams then spent a few minutes with the Good Morning America team and discussed the moment he received the call from Poles, saying he "blacked out a little bit" and shared an emotional moment with his family which "came from 12 years of hard work."

He disclosed his "Big 3" in life: "Care, love and winning." Williams made sure to deliver the show's iconic "Good Morning America" line before departing.


Williams then moved on to EA Sports' stop, where he took a break from the interviews to play Madden where he competed as himself. On the second play of the game, Williams threw a deep touchdown pass.

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An hour and a half into the experience, Williams paused the media tour to surprise Odunze. Williams snuck up behind the receiver during his Zoom interview with Chicago reports and yelled, "Rome ODUNZE" before dapping him up.


The pair shared a special moment, each sharing their congratulations with the other along with their excitement to work together in Chicago. Their chemistry was undeniable as Williams quickly likened the duo to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Just before 9:00 p.m., Williams made a stop to show off his 'fit at the Glambot, a robotic high-speed camera that captures slow-motion videos on the red carpet.

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Williams then headed up two floors and spent nearly 30 minutes participating in 1-on-1 interviews with members of the Chicago media. He rounded out his media appearances with a press conference, which commanded a packed room of on-site media members.


At his last stop, just before 10 p.m., Williams experienced his most emotional moment of the night. He was surprised with a video message from his mother, who expressed her love, admiration and pride for her son.

The message, which left Williams in tears and a feeling grateful, perfectly encapsulated who he is and why Thursday night provided an "unbelievable feeling" for the No. 1 pick.

After a few hours of sleep in Detroit, Williams was ready to head to Chicago first thing Friday morning. He and Odunze flew together from Detroit and arrived at facility for the first time as members of the Chicago Bears around 10 a.m.

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