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Caleb Williams-Joe Montana meeting impressed the Chicago Bears

It is fascinating to identify moments when an established sports legend meets a much younger man who is trying to become great in his own right. Will the young player become similarly iconic, or will he fail to reach his potential? We won’t know until the whistle blows on Sundays, and that’s part of the drama of sports. One such meeting — between an established giant of football and a potential future king — occurred last October, when USC went to South Bend to play Notre Dame. USC quarterback Caleb Williams with Notre Dame legend Joe Montana, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. The Chicago Bears and general manager Ryan Poles — who didn’t know at the time they would have the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL draft — were paying attention, as Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated noted:

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, paying tribute 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 youbut 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.”

Here we are, several months later. The Bears did get the chance to draft Williams. That moment in which Caleb handled his Montana meeting with ease and grace was a formative moment which developed his relationship with the Chicago Bears. It’s a lesson for all young athletes: Know your sport’s history. Know that every interaction in public settings matters. Everyone is taking notes all the time.

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