Heisman Winner Caleb Williams Explains Why He Paints His Nails: 'Another Way of Expression' (Exclusive)

The 21-year-old quarterback appears in Dr Pepper's "Fansville" campaign along with his mom (and former manicurist) Dayna Price

For Caleb Williams, it’s all about the hands.

The USC quarterback, who won the Heisman Trophy last year and is eying another one this season, is known for his unmatched passing talent — but he has also grabbed headlines for communicating messages via his fingernails.

“I think the nails thing kind of took everybody by surprise,” Williams, 21, tells PEOPLE soon after filming a new ad for his partnership for Dr Pepper. “I've been doing it before college, but it took everybody by surprise, just because you don't always see male athletes who play football paint their nails. But I think it's just another way of expression.”

And as the season progressed last year and the stakes became higher, Williams’ words took on heightened — and occasionally expletive-laced — meaning.

“This year, I’m gonna tone it down,” he says. “I've had a few talks with my coaches. But I'm gonna keep doing it and express myself.”

Related: USC Quarterback Caleb Williams Wins the Heisman Trophy

It’s all part of the mindset for the Washington, D.C. native, who played one season at the University of Oklahoma before decamping to California to follow in the footsteps of coach Lincoln Riley.

After leading USC to an 11-3 2022 season, Williams and the team suffered a disappointing loss to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game.

This year, the QB could make history and become only the second player ever to win the Heisman twice — Ohio State’s Archie Griffin did it in 1974 — but he says he’ll take a national championship over making Heisman history.

“I rank it as No. 1 for sure,” he says about his title hopes.

Related: Heisman Winner Caleb Williams Wants to Play for the Miami Dolphins: 'Probably My Number 1 Spot'

On the eve of the season, No. 13 has made sure to make time for a bit of fun before things get too intense. In July, he threw out the first pitch at the Los Angeles Dodgers game, and earlier this month, his name, image and likeness took on new meaning at Dodger Stadium in a bobblehead doll giveaway.

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Williams’ mom, Dayna Price, was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the game — and it wasn’t the only activity the mother and son participated in this summer.

<p>Courtesy Caleb Williams</p>

Courtesy Caleb Williams

Caleb and Dayna will appear in Dr Pepper’s Fansville campaign this football season, where Williams announces his preference for Dr Pepper Strawberries & Cream and gets a maroon and white “I Heart Dr Pepper” manicure as his mom — a former nail technician who used to paint Caleb's nails — looks on proudly.

“I thought it was a really awesome thing that we were able to do together,” Dayna tells PEOPLE about appearing in the ad. “I really like all the things that he is able to do at this particular point in his life, not just the football piece of it, but just being able to do so much more.”

<p>Courtesy of Dr. Pepper</p>

Courtesy of Dr. Pepper

And through Caleb Cares, Williams’ foundation that focuses on eliminating bullying, empowering youth and bringing awareness to mental health, Caleb and Dayna are working with Dr Pepper to announce a partnership with the soft drink company later this fall.

“Dr Pepper and Fanville, it's something that I've always watched as a kid,” Williams says about the iconic campaign that features a football-crazed town. “It's really cool for me to now be a part of it. It's been awesome, it's been great.”

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