Whether it’s “Zach’s Fifth Avenue” or “Wall Street Wilson”, the former BYU QB brings Big Apple a confident game
PROVO – One of the first things New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas noticed about Zach Wilson – and a major reason he picked the former BYU quarterback number 2 on Thursday’s NFL draft – was his Emotion and passion.
Wilson doesn’t just like football. He eats it, drinks it, chews it and spits it out – then he goes back tomorrow to do it all over again.
But those emotions caught up with Wilson when he walked out of the green room of the NFL Draft Theater in Cleveland on Thursday night, lifted a Jets “flight crew” hat from a pedestal, and shook hands with NFL Good Commissioner Roger Goodell after a slap in the face with half a dozen Jets fans pitting as the highest choice in BYU football history.
One of them was already wearing a jet jersey with “Wilson” on the nameplate and the BYU caller’s trademark No. 1 on the back. To say the election was expected is an understatement.
But that didn’t make it any less emotional.
“I had a pretty good idea, but how excited I was to be in this situation,” Wilson said during a press conference an hour after his selection on Thursday night. “I hugged my parents and said, ‘We did it.’
“But this is a stepping stone to what is to come.”
Wilson’s career is only just beginning, even if – for the time being, for sure – he’s being hailed as the next great quarterback to wear the Mean Green. For the second time in four years, the Jets have picked a quarterback with a top 5 pick.
The Jets have struggled to find a face to their franchise since the days of “Broadway Joe” Namath, and the names that mark the launch site have been numerous since then.
From Boomer Esiason to Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington and an aging Brett Favre to Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown and Sam Darnold – these are just a few of the names that have shaped the “quarterback graveyard” different degrees of success in the Big Apple.
Wilson believes he’s in the best position in the NFL. It’s the best selected pick in BYU history and the best pick in the state of Utah – and it couldn’t be happier to be in New York, where Saks Fifth Avenue meets Zach’s Fifth Avenue and Broadway Joe fans soon Wall will meet Street Wilson.
It doesn’t matter to him that the Jets have been a difficult franchise for the most part over the past 20 years. All that matters is that he’s here now and confident that things can change.
When Wilson first arrived at BYU, the Cougars had been through a 4-9 season, just firing legendary quarterback Ty Detmer as offensive coordinator, and were among the worst-recruited spots on the West Coast. Three years later, Wilson leaves Provo with more than 7,000 yards of passing and 56 touchdowns. That’s an impressive 74% end-of-season rate that all quarterbacks of the once nicknamed “Quarterback U.” and an 11-1 season Wilson was voted into the top 10 in the Heisman Trophy discussion.
Wilson knows a thing or two about turnarounds. He is confident that he can do it again as a professional.
“You know what? Every single team is different every year,” said Wilson. “There are different circumstances, different things that start to click. But any team can come back to that.”
“I think what makes something so special is being able to be part of something and it makes it special. When a team has problems and you can go in there and be a key piece to turn an organization around, I think that is so special. I’m so excited to be going in with this new coaching staff and doing the best we can to turn this thing around. “
BYU coach Kalani Sitake used Wilson as a three-star recruit at Corner Canyon High School and is ready to bet on the New York Jets’ new quarterback.
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson holds a New York Jets jersey after being voted second overall in the first round of NFL soccer draft on Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Cleveland. (Photo: Tony Dejak, Associated Press)
“I know a lot of the guys work hard. But I’m just telling you this guy eats, drinks, sleeps soccer,” said Sitake, who was on BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick’s draft and overtook game coordinator Fesi Sitake and Corner Canyon -Trainer Eric Kjar, all of whom played a role in Wilson’s success. “He’s a soccer junkie.
“I don’t know how many NFL draft picks see their alma mater’s spring practice, but he watched each of our 15 exercises and called me afterwards to give me his feedback. While everyone else was playing video games, he was watching Patrick Mahomes Aaron Rodgers and the greats. I know it’s a tough job, but he’s going to work really hard on it. “
It is this trust – in himself and in the people around him – that also drew the new Jets trainer Robert Saleh to Wilson. The Jets, under new coordinator Mike LaFleur, are committing a West Coast crime similar to that set out by Roderick and former BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, executed by Kjar at the three-time state champions in Draper and used by Saleh’s, too former team in San Francisco.
“I’m biased about the program we’ve been running for many, many years,” Saleh said. “But if you look at Zach, they ran much of our system in college. You can see him doing all of these throws.
“During his pro day, they ran a lot of the courses that we run. They could see that he is having success in our system. But I think this system is built for quarterbacks; it’s a quarterback-friendly system, pitch-and- Catch, maximum protection, and the ball is in and out of their hands as quickly as possible. You need a quarterback who has a tremendous amount of mental power, and Zach has it. “
Wilson will need help too, which is why the Jets acted midway through the first round to pick USC security guard Alijah Vera-Tucker 14th overall. New York will try to do for Wilson what it didn’t do for Sam Darnold before shipping the former USC starter to Carolina.
Vera-Tucker is off to a good start, a 6-foot-4,315-pound lineman who has been responsible for just two sacks and two holds in 849 pass blocks for the last two seasons with the Trojans.
“When we were 23 we felt like we had a golden opportunity to win a top 10 player like Alijah Vera-Tucker,” said Joe Douglas, general manager of Jets. “He started attacking, he started at the station and he was very productive in both areas.”
Douglas believes Wilson is the player who commits his new hire’s offense, partly because of his experience with it and also because of what he called a tremendous “mental feat”.
“I love the confidence, love the energy, love the passion,” said Douglas. “On our Zoom calls, one of the things that really stood out was his intensity. He was on the edge of his seat near the camera. You could see how intensely he was in focus.
“Add to that the mental performance and the recall, going through his games and knowing the situation, the audibles and the defense’s reaction. It was just really impressive. Every hurdle we had in our pre-design process made us feel like it was clarified. “
It’s been three years since Wilson stood in his parents’ basement surrounded by Utah loot and gear left over from his father Mike’s days as a Ute defender. At the time, Wilson had just ditched his Boise state engagement and had received offers from Cal, Iowa, and Syracuse, to name a few (noticeably absent: his father’s alma mater, where the Wilsons were season ticket holders for most of Zach’s youth).
By his own account, his family couldn’t imagine he would ever go to BYU – even after Sitake and Grimes extended a last-minute scholarship offer that made him rethink his future in Boise.
Three years later, Wilson began his career in a similar way: a year earlier, but with the confidence of an NFL veteran. Like the day his high school career came to an end, his parents were by his side.
After a life of sacrifice – from his grandparents to aunts and uncles to a dad who took the time to take him from basketball training to 7v7 camps – Wilson took the first step toward his final one Target.
“There is no way I can list every person who helped me get here,” said Wilson. “Looking back, since I was a little kid to my grandparents and my actual parents, everything they invested for me. My father sacrificed so much time and money to travel to various basketball and soccer camps for me 7-on-7 camps.
“It extends to my college coaches and my teammates. Nobody talks about how great we were as a team at BYU last year. I think that’s the amazing thing about football: it’s really a team game, and every single man up this squad. ” had a big part in it. “
The Zach Wilson file
height: 6’3 “
Weight: 209 lbs.
school: BYU, Corner Canyon HS
Stat that makes you 👀: Threw for 3,692 yards and 33 touchdowns with just three interceptions as a junior at BYU, leading the Cougars to an 11-1 season and an AP Top 25 finish.