Being compared to Prince, one of the most charismatic rockers of all-time, would usually be considered a compliment. But not in select corners of the NFL world, where pushing boundaries is still deeply frowned upon.

Caleb Williams is expected to be the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NFL Draft, with the USC standout dominating the college ranks over the last two seasons. But in the minds of atavistic talent evaluators, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner’s painted nails and willingness to cry in public mean more than all of his wins and touchdown passes.

Williams riled up homophobes last month, when he was spotted with pink accessories–nail polish, phone, wallet and lip gloss–at the Trojans women’s basketball team’s second round NCAA tournament matchup. Already uncomfortable with his expressive antics, macho meatheads tried to frame Williams’ “pretty in pink” persona as another red flag.

The D.C. native was already on watch. Last fall, Williams cried in his mother’s arms following a tough loss to rival Washington, prompting some talking heads and fans alike to call him “soft” and weak-minded.

In the midst of the brouhaha, Williams committed another cardinal sin: he defended himself.

“I go out every single day, blood, sweat and tears. I give my all on every single play, every chance that I get. I’ve been an advocate for mental health, show your emotions and express yourself,” he said.

“It’s something that I’ve been doing since I was young, and now on a national level being able to try and share that awareness with the public. Me doing just what I did on Saturday, even though it was far from what I was trying to do, it showed and spread that kind of awareness,” he added.

For the bulk of his college career, Williams’ personal expression on the field could be found on his fingernails. He’s painted them with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, as well as taunts directed towards opposing teams. One of the biggest wins of his college career came in October 2022, when he accounted for four touchdowns in USC’s statement win over Notre Dame. 

During the affair, fans noticed that Williams’ nails represented his intentions. They said, “F— NDXX.”

That’s not to say that Williams’ antics don’t occasionally backfire. For the 2022 Pac-12 Championship, his nails said “F— Utah.” 

The Trojans wound up losing 47-24.

But still, one would think that NFL scouts would like a kid with self-confidence, even if he veers into cockiness from time to time. Williams, however, doesn’t assert himself with primal screams or violent chest bumps.

He paints his nails and dresses provocatively.

To the simple-minded, that makes him G-A-Y.

That leads us to the opinions of unnamed NFL talent evaluators, who apparently maintain their anonymity for the freedom to bash 22-year-olds. In an interview on Pablo Torre’s show, sportswriter Dave Fleming relayed the criticism he’s heard about Williams among league officials.

In short, crusty scouts and execs don’t trust him. For their tastes, Williams is just… too much of a certain way. Their homophobic innuendo is easy to pick out.

“He would scare the sh*t out of me if I was working for a team. Raw emotion is great, but Caleb’s thing? That was ridiculous to me,” an ex-NFL scout told Fleming. “That threw up major red flags. You just lost a game in the middle of your f*cking season, and it was like your third loss in the Pac-12, and you went hugging on mommy and crying in mommy’s arms, and it just seems really weak and nuts.”

Keep in mind, Williams has thrown for 72 touchdowns over the last two seasons. But he’s too emotional, too hysterical.

He’s too… again, there’s just something about him.

“And I will tell you, he scares the sh*t out of me a lot of NFL teams, too,” the scout said. “The book on him is he’s just kind of a weird kid. One GM told me it’s like if Prince played quarterback.”

Since Prince is one of the best-selling artists ever, that should be a compliment. But we know it’s an insult. In addition to his musical talents, Prince was beloved in the queer community for his flamboyant flair and iconic gender-bending outfits.

NFL quarterbacks should be manly men…like the pampered Tom Brady. Whatever happened to that guy, anyway?

Fortunately, plenty of people in the NFL world push back against insults about Williams’ quirky demeanor. Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, who now works as an analyst for ESPN, said any team would be grateful to draft a kid who cares about the game so deeply.

“Watching Caleb Williams sobbing with his family after losing the game will break your heart,” he posted. “This young man pours his heart out for his team every time he plays. Any NFL team would be lucky to have him as their QB and this emotion shows how much this game means to him.”

NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt, meanwhile, defended Williams and his pink nails with a memorable rant.

“Do you know that the personalities in this league have evolved dramatically?” he asked. “Did you know that the head coach of the 2024 Bears is not Bill Parcells? This is a different time!”

The Chicago Bears are relevant to this convo, because they’re likely going to draft Williams Thursday night. And his attire will likely cause a stir.

The top NIL earner in college sports, Williams was the subject of a GQ cover story last fall, and posed for a variety of photos. The pictures captured Williams’ full range of personality, from grimacing football star to irreverent zoomer.

In one of the shots, Williams was wearing an orange dress with white gym socks and sneakers. Unsurprisingly, football bros failed to appreciate his artistic message, and just saw a dude in a dress.

“I’m not taking him with my no1 pick” said a Barstool Sports blogger on TikTok. “I’m not even gonna explain it. I’m trading the pick.”

But the Bears are not trading their pick, despite the franchise’s old-school perception. And on draft night, Williams plans to make an immediate impression.

“Wait till yall see draft day suit and my ladies dress. 1 of 1s,” he posted with a laughing face emoji.

Absolutely perfect. Slay away, QB1!

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