Read Caleb Williams’s Heisman Trophy speech: “Just keep believing.”


The following is a transcript of the speech USC quarterback Caleb Williams delivered after winning the Heisman Trophy.

First, I’d like to say thank you. Thank you. This is really awesome. This is really awesome to be up here. So first off, I’d like to thank all the Heisman Trust, all the voters, the finalists that sit right here in front of me — C.J. [Stroud], Max [Duggan], Stets [Stetson Bennett]. You guys are unbelievable competitors. And I am so happy to be up here with you all. Knowing Stets from when I went to Georgia on my visits and him being my host, which is kind of funny that I’m up here with him now.

But we’ve all been through this journey these past couple of days together. And I may be standing up here today, but you all get to go to College Football Playoffs.

Guess you can’t win them all.

To the men standing behind me. Thank you for your passion for the game. Because kids like me that have dreams and goals of being up here and of being the best started from watching you all, so thank you.

Next, special shout out to my fellow Trojan Matt [Leinart], Cars [Carson Palmer], Mike [Garrett] for always supporting me since I’ve made this journey across the country to USC. But to now be a part of this historic fraternity is truly an honor. It’s something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. While this may be an individual award, I certainly understand that nothing — and absolutely nothing — in this sport, nor life, is done alone.

I would like to thank our athletic director Mike Bohn and his wife, Kim, for being here today. Mike, I appreciate you for always and always making us the best student-athletes possible. My teammates and I greatly appreciate you and all you’ve done for USC.

Big dog, Coach [Lincoln] Riley. We committed to each other on two separate occasions, but with the same dream. As we say, and you’ve heard me say in the locker room, there can never be a great book or a great story without some adversity in it. So since our OU days, we’ve been through a lot. And even the sudden change in field from Norman, Oklahoma, to the University of Southern California, our dreams have not changed. They say you either change your dreams or change your habits, and I damn sure wasn’t going to change my dreams. I’m glad you didn’t change yours either. But we both know the job’s not done.

Mama Riley [Caitlin Riley, Lincoln’s wife], Sloan, Stella, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your family. And not only that, allowing him to coach me way more than he — he should probably be at home.

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. As I said, we do still have some unfinished business. A special shout out to this group. To the group that’s here today, the offensive linemen. Stand up big guys, wherever you are. We’re all here to celebrate our accomplishment. This doesn’t happen without each one of you — Bobby [Haskins], Courtland [Ford], [Andrew] Vorhees, Gino [Quinones], Brett [Neilon], Dedi [Justin Dedich], Jonah [Monheim], Mason [Murphy]. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you to my brotherhood at Gonzaga College High School. Coach Randy Trivers, where you at, big dog? Stand up. Hey, hey.

You had the courage to start a ninth grader in the toughest high school conference in the country. The Gonzaga experience both on and off the field helped to prepare me in more ways than you can imagine. Coach, you may not know this. But the Gonzaga monster that you drilled into us meant for others has helped inspire me to create the Caleb Cares foundation, which is all about giving back. So thank you, coach. Thank you, Gonzaga.

It is important to surround yourself with good people and a team that you can trust. Special thanks to Mama Judy, Cody and Phil. Now to my mentors, Coach Mar, Coach Russ [Thomas] and Coach Basha. I appreciate you for always holding me accountable as the man and as a football player and always speaking the truth to me, even when I don’t want to hear. You taught me how to be a QB and not play the position of QB. You taught me how to look at myself in the mirror and like the man that’s looking back.

And now, to the most important woman in my life. 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. You’re an inspiration to me in many ways. To the old man over there, my dad, 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 that I can’t thank you enough for. From the training sessions and the late-night practices, even opening Athletic Republic so my guys and I could go train. You’re always there for me making sacrifices in your life so I can achieve my dreams, which eventually became our dreams. It may seem to go unnoticed and unappreciated, but you mean the world to me. We’re in this together and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

That’s where my journey started. And it’s not the 4-year old kid that loved just going out there and running and tackling somebody and scoring touchdowns. The journey really started when I was 10. And the season ended and I had to turn my equipment in. And there’s one thing that I vividly remember, is telling my dad in the car ride home that this is what I wanted to do for my career. I wanted to be a football player. I wanted to be a quarterback. I loved it. I loved everything about it. Fast forward a couple years later, I’m crying in a hotel room. And many of you have probably seen me cry after a loss. My team and I just lost the national championship and I didn’t get the chance to play. My coach told me I was too small.

That night, a fire ignited in me. That night I decided to play quarterback. And not only be playing quarterback, but to be the best quarterback. I wanted to impact the game. I wanted to share the ball with all my teammates. And if you know me and my dad, very plan-based, we stayed up all night putting together a plan. And a journey slash plan went like this: 5:30 a.m., breakfast club workouts. We also have 6:30 in the p.m. lift, running conditioning, getting bigger, stronger and faster. We had nutritionists, sleep patterns, sports psychologists, coaching experts and learning and playing the game. The more I learned, the more I wanted.

But the path hasn’t always been easy. And this is me speaking to the 11-year-old out there who’s watching right now, who was told you’re too small, like they told me. Go out there, show them how big your heart is. To the seventh grader who was passed over on the team like I was, use that adversity to ignite your passion like I did. To the ninth grader out there who no one believes can make varsity, you can if you believe. To the 10th grader losing in the championship game but had belief that we were gonna come back and win down 20 in the first half. Always believe that there’s one more Hail Mary up your sleeve. And to the college freshman who was fighting for a chance to contribute and get on the field with your brothers, your time is coming, keep going. And if you lose your bid to get to the College Playoffs, know that you will get through it like I did. And like I just learned. Back to work. The job isn’t done.

The early setbacks that I encountered lit a fire, they started my journey. Your journey will be your own. Just keep believing and keep pursuing your goals. If you’re willing to put in the work and surround yourself with positive people, you can achieve anything. I used to write down my goals in a journal and what used to just be words on a piece of paper has me standing here today. So everyone dreams really do come true.

Thank you. Fight On.

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