CLEVELAND (ABC 4 Sports) – Zach Wilson has made history.
Wilson is the highest drafted BYU player ever, going with the second overall pick to the New York Jets at the NFL Draft in Cleveland Thursday night.
While the pick was widely expected, Wilson wasn’t sure until he heard his name called.
“Obviously there’s rumors about it and things going back and forth,” Wilson said. “You see all the predictions, but I didn’t believe it until it really happened. Some crazy things have happened on draft night. I don’t think there is a better place to play. I’m so excited to be there.”
In his breakout 2020 season, Wilson threw for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions in leading BYU to an 11-1 record and a #11 national ranking. Wilson also rushed for ten touchdowns this past season.
Wilson broke the BYU record, previously held by Steve Young, for completion percentage in a season, completing 73.5 percent of his passes in 2020.
Wilson will definitely have his work cut out with the Jets, a team that went 2-14 last season and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010. But the Jets have a new head coach in Robert Saleh and a new offensive coordinator in Mike LaFleur, and Wilson thinks this is a good fit.
“It’s very similar to what we did at BYU,” Wilson said about the Jets offense. “I think that’s where it fits. We did a lot of this play action pass, wide zone scheme, lots of deception and the ability to work under center. I think the way that this West Coast offense benefits a quarterback is so exciting.”
Being the quarterback at BYU is one thing, but in New York, that’s a whole different level of pressure. Wilson says he’s ready for it.
“I think that’s the exciting thing about being a quarterback,” Wilson said. “You’re always going to have the eyes on you. There’s always going to be adversity, ups and downs and people having their opinion of you. I think that that’s what you sign up for being a quarterback. You’ve got to learn to brush it off and understand what’s truly important. I’ve been working on that since I was seven years old, how to handle being a quarterback.”
Jim McMahon was previously the highest BYU drafted player ever, going with the fifth overall pick to the Chicago Bears in 1982. Steve Young was taken with the first overall pick in the USFL Draft in 1984.
Wilson is the first BYU player to be chosen in the first round since defensive end Ziggy Ansah was the No. 5 overall pick by the Detroit Lions in 2013.
Wilson also becomes the highest drafted player who prepped at a Utah high school, topping Merlin Olsen (Logan HS) going No. 3 overall to the Los Angeles Rams in 1962.
In 2020 he earned Pro Football Focus All-America Second Team, Phil Steele All-America honorable mention, Co-Polynesian College Player of the Year and finished No. 8 in the Heisman Trophy voting. A team captain in 2020, Wilson was a Manning Award Finalist, Walter Camp Player of the Year Semifinalist, Maxwell Award Semifinalist and Davey O’Brien Semifinalist.
The 6-foot-2, 214-pounder achieved a 96.5 Clean Pocket Grade from PFF – ranking the highest in the nation and set a new PFF record with an overall passing grade of 95.5, topping Joe Burrow’s 94.9 in 2019. On his way to a hallmark season, Wilson broke the BYU record, previously held by Steve Young, for completion percentage, completing 73.5 percent of his passes in 2020 while also rushing for 255 yards and 10 touchdowns.
From Corner Canyon, to BYU and now the New York Jets, Wilson has put in a ton of work to get here, and he has a lot of people to thank.
“There’s no way I can list every person that’s helped me get here,” Wilson said. “I look back since I was a little kid to obviously my grandparents, my actual parents and everything that they’ve put in to me. My dad has sacrificed so much time and money traveling for seven-on-seven tournaments and tons of different things. Then from my college coaches and high school coaches, and then my teammates. No one talks about how amazing we were as a team this last year at BYU. I think that’s the amazing thing about football is it’s truly a team game. Every single guy on that roster had a huge role in this.”