Patrick Reusse
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Caleb Williams was voted as the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner as a sophomore quarterback for Southern California. He remains likely to be the No. 1 selection in the 2024 NFL draft, although a woeful defense has caused a late-season Trojans collapse to 7-5.

The consensus seems to be Williams has displayed "maturity issues'' during the Trojans' flop, and he will not be repeating as the Heisman winner.

As for the Caleb Williams of note as an athlete here in the Twin Cities, his reputation was extended beyond the MIAC following the night of Nov. 2.

That's when Ben Johnson debuted his make-or-break third-season Gophers in an exhibition game vs. Macalester. The final was 97-73, Big Ten over MIAC, but there was more social media attention paid to Williams' 41 points than what occurred for the Gophers.

The 6-2 senior guard went 14-for-31 from the field to get those 41. The only visitor to score more in Williams Arena was Scott Skiles' 45 for Michigan State in 1986.

Williams was sitting in a row of bleachers in the Macalester gym before a practice last week and was asked about the attention received from those 41 points.

"I've been playing basketball here in St. Paul for three years, sharing our good moments with teammates,'' Williams said. "All of a sudden, to have a few people from the media doing interviews, asking about us, definitely has been different.''

Caleb Williams.
Caleb Williams.

Christopher Mitchell

Williams was not a complete stranger to this. In 2020, as a senior at Wild Rose High School in Wisconsin, he was the triple jump champion in his division at the state track and field meet.

There had to be some diligent prep reporter looking for a quote after that one.

Williams' fall sport for the Wild Rose Wildcats was cross-country. He was competitive, but it also was getting him in prime shape for basketball — the legacy sport for the Williams family in that small town.

"My grandpa Robert played for Wild Rose and was a very good player, and so was my dad, Bruce,'' Caleb said. "The Williams family always have been Wildcats.''

Bruce and Stephanie Williams have two biological sons, Caleb and Cavan; an adopted daughter, Clare, from Guatemala, and three adopted sons, Emmanuel, Elijah and Jonah. They have been foster parents and part of a special needs adoption program.

Bruce is in his first winter as an assistant coach for women's basketball at Cornell College in Iowa. Stephanie is working in foster care.

"My mother makes all of my games,'' Caleb said. "My dad gets here when he can.''

The Scots followed the Gophers exhibition with a 3-1 record in nonconference games: a home loss to Wisconsin-Superior, then wins at Wartburg, Wisconsin-Stout and MIT (92-72, in a battle of big brains in Boston over the weekend).

The Stout game played last week in Menomonie, Wis., was a track meet, 102-93 for Mac in comeback fashion.

"We don't play many teams that just want to run,'' coach Abe Woldeslassie said. "We're fine with that. We lost our excellent center, Badou Ba, to knee surgery last month. We don't have much size, but 6-4, 6-5 players that will battle on the boards.''

Williams scored 34 points vs. Stout. And Stout's Brody Fox, the brother of the Gophers' Parker Fox, raced the court and scored 36.

"One of the best games I've been in as a college player,'' Williams said. "My teammates, to rebound like that, to shoot like that … excellent win.''

The MIAC men's basketball schedule opens with five games on Tuesday night, including Concordia (Moorhead) at Macalester. This will be the last season when the conference schedule is 20 games.

"We're going to 16 next season, giving us nine nonconference games, rather than five, and chance at better scheduling,'' Woldeslassie said.

Caleb Williams threw a behind-the-back pass to get out of trouble against the Gophers.
Caleb Williams threw a behind-the-back pass to get out of trouble against the Gophers.

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

Williams has another season of eligibility, but whether this explosive scorer will delay his graduation another year — in physics and mathematics — is questionable.

Williams' academic adviser, Prof. James Heyman, said Williams' honors project, titled "New Techniques for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance To Study Properties of Novel Materials,'' has gone off very well.

So next year, Caleb?

"The goal is to win the MIAC this season with these teammates,'' he said. "That's my only basketball concern right now.''

Meaning, any decision to enter the transfer portal as a graduate — where Division I offers would be probable — is not nearly as important as MIAC opponents and nuclear magnetic resonance for Williams this winter.

Correction: A quote was removed from an earlier version of this column.