Caleb Williams wins the 2022 Heisman award

Sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams threw for 363 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception in the Trojans’ loss to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship game. (Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

When sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams arrived in Los Angeles last February, much of the USC program was in a crisis.

The Trojans were coming off their fourth-worst winning percentage in 101 seasons. Even with his splashy hire, Head Coach Lincoln Riley was in the midst of a major program overhaul. Roster turnover was imminent and a program that seemed to be losing its fire needed a spark. 

In came former five-star recruit Williams, the ultimate firework USC needed to bring it back to relevancy. Would he live up to the hype? A year later he answered with a resounding yes.

A win in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2 will give USC its most wins since 2008. Much of it wouldn’t have been possible without Williams, who threw for 4,075 yards, 37 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season. He also ran for 372 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

Williams was praised throughout the year, but he was etched into college football and USC history when he won the Heisman Award Saturday night. He is the eighth Trojan to do so, a college football record. 

Reggie Bush was the last USC player to win the Heisman in 2005. But he vacated the trophy in 2010 because the NCAA found him and his family guilty of receiving extra benefits when he was a student-athlete. The Heisman does not officially list Bush as the winner in 2005.

Williams earned 544 first-place votes, nearly 400 more than TCU quarterback Max Duggan who finished second. Williams was one of four finalists along with Duggan, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett 

Every finalist except Williams will play in the College Football Playoff, something he joked about during his speech. 

“And I may be standing up here today,” Williams said. “But you all get to go to the College Football Playoffs. Guess you can’t win them all.”

He has one more year to win it all, but for now, he’s the winner of the biggest individual award in college football. 

Statistically, he had one of the best years in USC football history. His 4,447 total offensive yards are the most ever by a Trojan. His 47 total touchdowns in a season is a new record. After one season of play, Williams is on pace to become USC’s all-time passing leader. He was also the first USC quarterback to have three rushing touchdowns in a game in 25 years. 

In his speech, Williams spoke about his journey, including a time when he told his dad he wanted to be a quarterback at 10 years old. Then two years later, he was crying in his hotel room after losing the national championship, a game he didn’t play in because his coach said he was too small. 

Instead of giving up, he developed a plan with his dad. It began with 5:30 a.m. workouts nicknamed the Breakfast Club, then a lifting session at 6:30 p.m. to get bigger, stronger and faster. 

Williams said his journey wasn’t easy, but it was the precursor to his belief in himself. 

“The early setbacks that I encountered lit a fire, they started my journey,” he said. “Your journey will be your own. Just keep believing and keep pursuing your goals.”

His belief has him forever part of Trojan lore that joined him in New York. Former USC Heisman winners Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer and Mike Garrett were all on stage for his speech. 

Special guests were also flown out by Williams — all eight of the offensive lineman that blocked for him this season. He named them all during his speech, saying the Heisman wouldn’t have been his if it wasn’t for them.

But, it was bittersweet at times for Williams, whose magic ran out in the Pac-12 Championship game against Utah. Hindered by a hamstring injury, Williams wasn’t himself and the Trojans couldn’t hang around. USC saw its playoff hopes crushed, but Williams isn’t.  

“I’d like to thank all my USC brothers. I know we didn’t finish the way we wanted to, but the culture bond that we formed will last forever,” he said. “As I said, we do still have some unfinished business.”