USC's Caleb Williams Opts Out of Bowl Game to Prepare for NFL Draft as Teammate Shines

Caleb Williams, USC's star quarterback, opts out of the 2023 Holiday Bowl to focus on his NFL draft preparation. Meanwhile, his favorite target, Tahj Washington, leads the Trojans to a 42-28 victory in the Holiday Bowl before being drafted by the Miami Dolphins.

Salman Khan
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USC's Caleb Williams Opts Out of Bowl Game to Prepare for NFL Draft as Teammate Shines

USC's Caleb Williams Opts Out of Bowl Game to Prepare for NFL Draft as Teammate Shines

Caleb Williams, the star quarterback for the University of Southern California Trojans, has made the decision to opt out of the 2023 Holiday Bowl so he can focus on his preparation for the 2024 NFL draft. Williams, who is projected to be a top pick, has already begun working with private quarterback coach Will Hewlett to get a head start on his transition to the NFL and grasp the foundational aspects of the playbook used by the Chicago Bears, the team expected to select him.

"We have pieces [of the playbook]. I don't have the plays," Hewlett explained. "I could have the plays, and would that really help because there are so many other layers that go into making a successful football play work? But we have the basic route concepts in terms of depths and timing, and then how that matches together." While Williams is getting a jump on learning the Bears' system, he will receive the complete playbook once he arrives at rookie minicamp.

As Williams prepares for his NFL future, his favorite target at USC, wide receiver Tahj Washington, took a different path. Washington played in the Holiday Bowl, leading the Trojans to a 42-28 victory over Louisville. The skilled receiver, known for his sure hands, finished the 2023 season with a team-leading 59 receptions for 1,062 yards, dropping only one of the 74 passes thrown his way.

Washington's talents extend beyond the football field. He is also a talented cook with a YouTube channel, "Chef Tahj," which earned him an NIL deal with HelloFresh in 2023. "A lot of people know me for football because that's what they see. Cooking is what I love to do," Washington said. His cooking show, "No Huddle Kitchen," has gained a following, and he even hosted a charity cookout, "Chef Tahj's Summer Cookout," in his hometown of Marshall, Texas.

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah praised Washington's skills, saying, "He was a pleasant surprise when I watched him because I didn't know what to expect there. He is not the biggest guy in the world but super super quick. Ultra tough." Jeremiah added, "I think he is better on the move than he was kind of gearing down and working back downhill. Somebody should get the ball in his hands and let him go."

Washington's path to USC was not without challenges. He transferred from Memphis after a disagreement with coach Ryan Silverfield in March 2021. His mother, Shanon Kuykendall, defended her son, telling Silverfield,"You don't really know this kid at all, you don't know him to even say that. Despite the challenges, Washington's hard work and dedication paid off when the Miami Dolphins selected him in the seventh round of the 2024 NFL draft.

As Caleb Williams and Tahj Washington launch their NFL careers, their paths serve as a testament to the diverse journeys players take to reach their dreams. Williams' decision to prioritize draft preparation and Washington's standout performance in the Holiday Bowl highlight the challenges and opportunities faced by college athletes as they make the transition to the professional level. With their unique talents and unwavering commitment, both players are set to make an impact in the NFL.

Key Takeaways

  • Caleb Williams opts out of 2023 Holiday Bowl to focus on 2024 NFL draft prep.
  • Williams works with private coach Will Hewlett to learn Chicago Bears' playbook.
  • Tahj Washington plays in Holiday Bowl, leads USC to 42-28 win over Louisville.
  • Washington, a talented cook, earns NIL deal with HelloFresh and gets drafted by Miami Dolphins.
  • Both players' paths demonstrate diverse journeys to the NFL, highlighting challenges and opportunities.