USC quarterback Caleb Williams won the 2022 Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, earning college football's most treasured individual honor in his first year with the Trojans.
Williams beat out the other three finalists -- Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, TCU's Max Duggan and Georgia's Stetson Bennett -- in what was the first all-quarterback group of Heisman finalists since 2018. Duggan finished second in the voting, receiving 1,420 points to Williams' 2,031. Stroud finished third (539 points) and Bennett fourth (349 points). It marks the 11th time in the last 13 years that a quarterback has won the award.
"To now be a part of this historic fraternity is truly an honor and something I will cherish for the rest of my life," Williams said during his acceptance speech at Saturday night's ceremony in New York City. "While this may be an individual award, I certainly understand that nothing -- and absolutely nothing -- in this sport, nor life, is done alone."
Williams currently leads the FBS in passing touchdowns (37) and ranks fourth in pass yards (4,075). He and Lincoln Riley both left Oklahoma following the 2021 season and settled at USC, helping to quickly turn the program around.
Although the Trojans fell short of the College Football Playoff after losing to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, they followed up a 4-8 season that saw the ouster of coach Clay Helton with an 11-2 campaign in 2022 and a spot in the Cotton Bowl versus Tulane.
Williams gutted through a painful hamstring injury in the loss to the Utes last weekend, throwing a late interception and taking seven sacks in the game, but he finished with 363 passing yards and three TDs, even picking up a fourth-quarter first down with his legs despite the injury.
Because of the injury, it's not clear if Williams will play in the Jan. 2 bowl game.
As a freshman at Oklahoma in 2021, Williams replaced benched starter Spencer Rattler and finished the season with 1,912 pass yards, 21 TDs and four interceptions, along with 442 rush yards and six more scores in 11 games.
Once Riley departed for USC, he knew which quarterback he wanted to bring with him. The Trojans attacked the transfer portal hard last offseason, landing Williams, former Pitt wide receiver Jordan Addison, former Oregon running back Travis Dye, former Colorado wide receiver Brenden Rice (Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice's son) and former Oklahoma wide receiver Mario Williams, among others.
As an underclassman, Williams will not be eligible to apply for special draft eligibility until 2024. He could enter next season as the Heisman favorite again and have the Trojans in a position to build on a successful 2022 campaign.
His blend of thrilling arm talent and athleticism, improvisational skills and high-level production make Williams one of the best quarterback talents we've seen in a few years. And he has more college football ahead of him.
"If you're willing to put in the work and surround yourself with positive people, you can achieve anything," Williams said later in his speech on Saturday. "I used to write down my goals in a journal. 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."
The runner-up Duggan was this year's darling, going from TCU's backup (Chandler Morris beat out Duggan in a summer battle) in the opener against Colorado to one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country once Duggan regained his starting role after Morris was hurt against the Buffaloes.
All Duggan did was turn in one of the best seasons ever by a Horned Frogs signal-caller, throwing for 3,321 yards, 30 TDs and only four INTs, and also rushing for 404 yards and six TDs. TCU landed its first CFB Playoff spot by authoring several thrilling, late comebacks. Duggan's heroics in the Big 12 title game last week weren't enough, however, as TCU came up just short in an overtime loss to Kansas State, but the quarterback's hearty effort clearly captured a lot of voters' attention.
Stroud was a finalist for the Heisman in 2021, finishing fourth in the voting last year, and entered this season as one of the big preseason favorites for the 2022 award. His stats didn't slip in a big way this season, but he saw small declines in TD passes (from 44 to 37) and pass yards (from 4,435 on 441 pass attempts to 3,340 on 355 attempts this season) and once again couldn't rally his Buckeyes past Michigan in the regular-season finale. Still, Ohio State's 2022 season has turned out better than in 2021 so far, with the Buckeyes landing a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Bennett's statistics are not as gaudy as those of the other finalists, but last season's national championship game offensive MVP had his finest individual season for college football's best team to this point, throwing for 3,425 yards, 20 TDs and six INTs and running for seven TDs in spite of Georgia losing a host of skill players to the NFL and with UGA being more of a run-first team.
Voters for the Heisman Trophy include 870 media members, all living Heisman winners and a collective fan vote.