USC’s Williams wins Heisman after leading Trojan turnaround

Caleb Williams brought fizz, excitement and star power back to Southern California football. And now the Heisman Trophy.

NEW YORK (AP) — Caleb Williams brought fizz, excitement and star power back to Southern California football.

And now the Heisman Trophy.

Williams, the dynamic quarterback who was the catalyst for the Trojans’ turnaround season, won the Heisman Saturday night, making USC the first school to take home the award for most prestigious college football player of the year eight times took.

Williams received 544 first-place votes and 2,031 points to easily outperform TCU quarterback Max Duggan (1,420).

Williams is the fourth transfer to win the Heisman in the past six years, joining Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018) and LSU’s Joe Burrow (2019).

Ohio State’s CJ Stroud finished third in the voting after finishing fourth last season. Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett finished fourth. The top-ranked Bulldogs will face Stroud and the fourth-ranked Buckeyes on December 31 in the College Football Playoff.

Duggan and the third-placed Horned Frogs will take on No. 2 Michigan in the other CFP semifinals on New Year’s Eve.

“I may be standing up here today, but you’re all coming to the college football playoffs. I guess you can’t win them all,” Williams said as he began his acceptance speech by thanking the other finalists.

Before accepting his grand bronze trophy, Williams hugged Mike Garrett, USC’s first Heisman winner in 1965, one of 23 previous winners who attended the ceremony near Lincoln Center.

“Dreams really do come true. Thank you and keep fighting,” Williams said at the end of his 10-minute speech.

Williams and No. 8 USC missed out on the Pac-12 championship and a playoff berth, but it was nonetheless a rebirth for a college football blues who has had only brief streaks of success over the past decade.

The last time USC had a Heisman winner was in 2005, when running back Reggie Bush became the second of consecutive Trojans players to win the award. Matt Leinart won the 2004 Heisman en route to a national championship.

Bush’s Heisman win, the Trojans’ seventh, was later vacated over NCAA violations that started USC’s relegation.

Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma each have seven Heisman wins.

The Trojans are hoping for a resurgence, led by Lincoln Riley, who coached Oklahoma’s last two Heisman winners, and Williams, who followed Norman’s quarterback whisperer to Los Angeles.

With Riley and Williams orchestrating one of the nation’s most prolific offenses, USC went from 4-8 last to 11-2 and a Cotton Bowl bid this year.

Williams is the quintessential modern day college football star. A five-star recruit from Washington, Williams has been a celebrity since high school.

At the age of 10, Williams and his father, Carl, began plotting a path to greatness. On the to-do list was winning a Heisman.

“It’s what you dream of as a kid, when you’re in high school, and then when you get to college, it’s just a goal that you could throw at the wall before the season,” Williams said the day before he hit that goal ticked off.

As a freshman in Oklahoma last year, Williams snagged the starting job, came off the bench to mobilize the Sooners to last rival Texas, and immediately became one of college football’s most exciting players.

He joined USC in the offseason to play for Riley and amassed an extensive and lucrative sponsorship portfolio before ever playing a game for the Trojans.

Thanks to one of his NIL deals, Williams was able to bring eight of his offensive lineman to the Heisman ceremony in New York.

As the games started, Williams delivered the promise and potential.

He rushed for 4,075 yards, 37 touchdowns and just four interceptions, and set a USC record for total offense with 4,447 yards. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound sophomore also ran for 10 touchdowns and drew comparisons to Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes for his ability to improvise and deliver perfect passes from a variety of arm angles.

Williams finished with a kick that went for seven touchdowns in top-25 wins over UCLA and Notre Dame that put USC in the playoff position.

The Trojans failed to finalize the deal and lost the Pac-12 title game to Utah, with Williams limping through much of the game with a strained hamstring. Still, he threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns to give USC a chance and cemented his status as a Heisman frontrunner.

Williams is the 19th quarterback to win the Heisman since 2000, the third from USC and the third to do so after joining Riley.

Mayfield and Murray followed similar paths under Riley when he was in Oklahoma. Riley left the Sooners after last season to take the USC job and hop from one famous program to the next.

Riley joins Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy (four), Alabama’s Nick Saban (four), Army’s Red Blaik (three) and Ohio State’s Woody Hayes (three) to coach at least three Heisman-winners.

Williams is the sixth sophomore and second straight to win the Heisman. Alabama’s Bryce Young won the Heisman in his sophomore season last year and finished sixth this year in voting behind Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker.

Williams becomes the latest player with a chance to join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin (1974-75) as a two-time Heisman champion.

But first, it’s time to find some space in USC’s Heritage Hall. Williams made Southern California the Heisman U. again. USC’s Williams wins Heisman after leading Trojan turnaround

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