Rome Odunze On Building A Rapport With Caleb Williams And Why The Bears Won’t Shy Away From Expectations

The Chicago Bears are looking to enter a new era in 2024. After another mediocre season in 2023, the team found itself in a unique position as a team with some talent, but also getting a chance to add two real difference makers at the top of the Draft. That was thanks to trading the top pick a year ago to the Panthers, allowing Carolina to jump up for Bryce Young, and giving the Bears what became the No. 1 overall pick this year to go along with their own pick at No. 9.

After taking Caleb Williams with that first pick, the Bears decided to give him another weapon on the outside, drafting Washington star receiver Rome Odunze with their other top 10 pick. Odunze joins a suddenly loaded receiving corps in Chicago, with DJ Moore and Keenan Allen, who Chicago traded for prior to the Draft. With Williams’ abilities as a passer, the receiver trio is looking at it as an opportunity and friendly competition, with Moore saying it’ll be a race to 1,000 yards.

For Odunze’s part, he’s excited to get in the building and learn from a pair of veterans who have played the game at a high level for years. The rookie receiver spoke with UPROXX by phone last week while at the NFLPA Panini Rookie Premiere, and we discussed his whirlwind last month, building a rapport with Williams on and off the field, the process of learning a new playbook, and why the Bears aren’t shying away from the expectations.

You’re at the Panini Rookie Premiere, now, what’s the event been like? And how cool is it to see yourself on a trading card?

Oh, it’s been awesome. It’s been a good experience thus far. You know, just got here last night. This morning, been running around, meeting everybody, and it’s been a good time. To see all the other rookies as well, it’s been special. It’s been awesome. Also, being with Panini, being able to see the process of making the trading card. You know, I haven’t seen the exact rookie card yet, so I’m excited to see what that looks like and hopefully collect all the ones that I can.

What have the last few weeks been like for you since Draft night, learning you’re going to be Chicago Bear, and getting in for a quick mini camp? How are you settling into your new life as a pro?

Yeah, I think that’s exactly how it’s been. You know, it’s just been me trying to settle in with the team, with everybody in the locker room, and the city of Chicago as a whole. So, it’s been a good experience. The support and everything from the organization, from the family has all been good. So, I’m just finding my way, getting settled, trying to find a spot, trying to find my routine in it all. But, taking it day by day and it’s all a blessing. I’m super grateful for it.

You’re now paired with Caleb Williams there in Chicago. What have you been able to learn about him on the field and off the field is is y’all build a connection that obviously you hope will last a long time?

Right, I think I’ve been building the relationship on and off the field. You know, he’s tremendously talented on the field. I think everybody knows that he’s able to do whatever he wants out there with his talent level and the way he studies the game. We’ve been studying plays together. He’s been helping me learn some stuff. And I’ve been giving him my input on other things, so it’s been great. And then just being able to bond with him, grow our relationship off the field as well has been awesome. You know, both coming in as rookies, both finding our place in all of this. So, it’s been a great thing to be able to be alongside of him.

In terms of building that relationship with a quarterback on the field, each one likes a little bit of a different thing in how you come out of breaks and depth on certain routes and those sort of things. How do you try to build that rapport as quickly as possible?

Yeah, I think it just comes through reps, honestly, just continually doing something over and over and over, so you can’t mess it up again. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. Learning the offense together is a good part of that. Building that foundation for each other, so we know the standard on each and every route and how things need to be ran and how the play needs to operate. So to have someone like that back there who’s a perfectionist, who wants everything to be right on the money, I appreciate that because I’m the same way in my wide receiver play. We have those things build off one another and have that collaborative relationship on it.

And what’s the process for you learning the playbook and getting that in hand from Shane Waldron and trying to learn it all? Because you’ll probably be moving around the field a little bit with that wide receiving corps and may be in certain spots, and what’s that process been like early on?

It’s been good. You know, I’m doing all I can. It’s a lot of information that they throw at you, and the offensive playbook in the NFL, every single team, it has a lot of depth to it and a lot of different nuances that you have to learn and remember like the back of your hand. I’m just continuing that process every day. Getting the installs, looking at them, and then going out there and running the routes, making sure it’s translating to the field. Being able to do that with Caleb and all the other vets, it’s coming. It’s a process, but it’s something that I think I’m growing at a good rate. I think learning my position and my role within the offense is something that is still to be determined, but I’m willing and able to do whatever.

You and Caleb are top 10 picks, but you’re coming into a team that has kind of built up its talent on the veteran side as well, especially at your position with Keenan Allen and DJ Moore. What are you excited to be able to learn from those two guys who have been in the league and played at a really high level?

Well to start with, their routine. Just learning their routine, how they’ve been able to be in the game for this long, what they do each and every day that people don’t see on camera, and the big highlight plays on the Instagram and the Twitter, wondering what they do behind the scenes that has led them to be as great as they are. So my first thing is learning those things. Then, when it comes to on the field, all their techniques and different things that they do within the route, I just sit back there with an open mind and soak up all that I can. Because when you watch both of them play, it’s something special, something you can always take one or two notes from each and every route they run. So, just taking a step back and learning from them, whatever I can.

I know a bunch of Bears fans, and this is about as excited as I’ve seen them coming into a season. Caleb has talked about not shying away from expectations, and how important is that in changing a culture and building a winning culture? To not be afraid of talking about wanting to win and wanting to do great things?

Yeah, no, absolutely. I believe in manifestation and putting that energy out into the world and it coming back to you. You can say those things, you can have affirmations in those things and believe in them, but it’s also about putting in the work. You know what I mean? And I think we’re a team, we’re individuals that are willing to say those things and be comfortable with it. Because it’s the reality of the situation. We know we have high expectations. And we believe in ourselves. We believe in our ability. But we match the work ethic with our word. I mean, we match the belief and the words with our work ethic. So being able to do those things with Caleb, I think it is an extraordinary thing to be able to go out there and say that, and also do it as well.