How one emoji — ✌️ — ignited Caleb Williams hysteria among USC’s football faithful

Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams warms up before a game against Iowa State on Nov. 20. (Alonzo Adams / Associated Press)

It was just before noon on Jan. 15 when a single emoji from USC football’s official Twitter account whipped an entire fan base into a frenzy.

It was posted without explanation. For an hour, it sat unexplained, inspiring message board threads and festering in the deepest, most paranoid recesses of USC’s fan base. But considering the context, the emoji’s arrival at that particular moment certainly appeared as if it were packed with meaning. Fans were already on pins and needles, awaiting word on whether college football’s most coveted transfer was coming to USC. A single emoji sent them spiraling.

Could this ✌️ be a sign? Was Caleb Williams on the way? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??

Since entering the transfer portal in early January, Williams hasn’t offered any clear indications he plans to follow his former Sooners coach, new Trojans coach Lincoln Riley, from Oklahoma to L.A. But all signs continue to point in that direction, and here, it seemed, USC was content to throw virtual kindling on the fire in the form of its “Fight On” emoji. When more USC accounts followed suit, sending out their own bat signals via Twitter — often, with several emojis at a time — the cryptic tweet would ignite an internet inferno.

Nine days later, that fire is still burning. Williams remains in the portal, and USC staffers continue to send out cryptic emojis, knowingly fanning the flames as Trojans fans’ patience wears thinner with each passing tweet.

They won’t have to wait much longer. To participate in USC’s spring semester — and thus, spring football practice — a new transfer must be enrolled as a full-time student by Jan. 28. If Williams intends to be USC’s quarterback of the future next…

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