2021 First-Round Pick: Zach Wilson
Brian Costello, New York Post: Congratulations. When did you start thinking that the Jets might be the team that was going to take you?
A couple of weeks back, obviously going through the process, you kind of know where your projections are and what the media is saying but you never truly know until it happens on draft day. This is what I was hoping for. This is what me and my family were praying for is to be in this situation and go play for the Jets. We’re so excited to be here.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: What makes you ready to take on this challenge of being a franchise quarterback for the New York Jets?
When I made my decision to come out of college, it was because I felt like mentally, physically, I was ready for the NFL game. I felt like my maturity, my ability to pick up an offense, be able to connect with the guys around me was ready to go. When I decided to come out, that was the decision I made is that I got to be ready to play in the NFL. I’m excited to take this full on because since I was seven years old, we’ve been working on how to handle to be an NFL player.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Zach, you say that the Jets were the team you wanted to go to. I think that might surprise some people. The team hasn’t had a lot of success in recent years. Why was that?
Every single team is different each year. There are some different circumstances that happen, different positions, different things that maybe just aren’t clicking but every team can come back from that stuff. I think what makes something so special is being able to be a part of something and make something special. When a team isn’t doing super well and you can go in there and actually be a key piece into what actually flips that the organization around, I think that’s so special. I’m so excited. Me along with this new coaching staff as well to go in there and try and do the best that we can to flip this thing around.
Bruce Beck, WNBC: Zach, do you embrace the challenge of playing in New York?
Yeah, no doubt. I’m so excited. You know, I haven’t been obviously to the East Coast. I’m a West Coast guy but I’m so excited to be there. I think that was one of the biggest things when I decided to come out is that I’m excited to experience living somewhere else. I didn’t know where it was going to take me but I’m so excited that I get to go and be in New York City. I know there’s so many opportunities there and some great situations, some great fans. I can’t wait to be able to represent that city.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Zach, I think it was from maybe a year or so ago, but there was a video clip of you talking about what offense you felt you might fit best in and I think you mentioned Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan obviously still in San Francisco but the Jets are going to run that same offense this year. What about that scheme do you think is that perfect fit for you and why do you think you’ll be so successful in it?
I think it’s so similar to BYU. Tons of shifts, motions, a little bit of pro-style under center, pushing the ball down the field, play-action pass. I think that that West Coast-style offense that Coach (Mike) LaFleur and Coach (Robert) Saleh are going to bring in is exactly… If I had exactly the offense I’d want to plan, it would be right there. I got a taste of it going through this whole recruitment process trying to figure out the things that we like and don’t like. I think the coaching staff has exactly what I needed, and the scheme is right there. I can’t wait to start learning it.
Jennifer Williams, Fox5: Zach, as you mentioned the coaching staff there on the stage, you immediately said how you love this Jets coaching staff. What was it that really had you connect with Coach Saleh or Coach LaFleur that you knew that this would be a great fit?
It definitely starts from the top. I think the ownership has the right mindset. I know Christopher (Johnson) and Woody (Johnson) are doing everything they can to be able to put the Jets in the best situation to succeed. Obviously, Joe Douglas is doing an amazing job of bringing in the right hires and he’s going to make some other great draft picks tonight. I think with Coach Saleh, I think the most important part in the head coach is the culture that he brings in and his energy and passion and the ability to bring guys around him I think is so special. Obviously, look at Coach LaFleur and his ability to learn from so many great guys. He is arguably one of the most intelligent guys that I’ve met with through all my Zoom meetings and interactions. Everything that they bring from every standpoint, I’m so excited to be a part of.
Joe Mauceri, WPIX: Zach, I know you spend your weekends traveling basically 10 hours to continue to practice football. There’s a lot of distractions here in New York though. Is there anything you’re looking forward to off the field experiencing here in New York City?
There’s a lot of good restaurants. That’s one of my favorite things to do is go out to the city and check out what good food they got to eat. I’m excited to get down there. Hopefully, COVID will pass by in a little bit and we’ll be able to get to the city and try out some of the good restaurants. I’m just excited to experience the great parts of New York.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Zach, people have dissected your game over the last four months. I think one of the big questions is what was the biggest difference for you from 19 to 20 when your stats really jumped in 2020? How would you answer that question?
You know what’s so crazy? If you look at the best quarterbacks, everyone just remembers the greatest things about them, right? There has to be growth somewhere, right? My sophomore season was growth for me. Every situation that year, I had learned from. I had a couple of injuries that year as well. The ability to learn from some of the mistakes I made, the development of my game, the maturity, having one more year with guys that I was able to help build a culture around. We were just able to make things click and I think that was what was so special about the whole thing is when you just got one more year, all that stuff that you went through struggling and stuff that I learned from.
Bruce Beck, WNBC: Zach, what are the Jets getting as a leader, as a player and as a man?
Someone that’s going to give everything they have. I think that’s the bottom line. From day one, I know you got to work as hard as you can. You got to think you’re working harder than everybody else to get to this point. The Jets are going to get a guy that, I’m a big believer in bringing the guys around you together, having a strong connection with them. That’s a leader. I’m going to be the man that they can look up to, they can call for any advice, any help that they ever need. As a player, I’m going to make sure I’m in the facility every single day giving it everything I have because I want to do whatever I can to make sure that this team is on the right track and we’re getting all the right things done.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Zach, you mentioned on giving everything you have, from coaches and players, it seem like one thing you’d love to do is dive into the film. What made you such a film junkie?
It’s just that passion and love for the game. Ever since I was a young kid, I’ve always loved the thrill of the sport. Everything that goes on between it and you hit that deep touchdown pass, when you make someone miss, even sometimes when you get laid out, sometimes the game just brings so much thrill and excitement and you get those butterflies. I think that’s what’s so special. In those kinds of moments, I just want to always make sure I’m prepared. I got so into film because I just love that there always is something new to learn. Every single day that I watch film, there’s something new to learn. I’m just soaking it up and I’m having a blast.
Joey Chandler, NJ Advance Media: What would you like Jets fans to know about you? Not only as a player, but a person.
I’m a big family guy. I would rather sit at home with my parents, a couple of my close friends, my girlfriend and hang out, go out and get a nice dinner. Whatever it is, I really am a football junkie 24/7 and I hope they know I’m going to give everything I have to make sure that we do this in the right way.
Jennifer Williams, Fox5: Zach, you’re going to a team that’s been searching for a franchise quarterback. We heard, “Since the days of Joe Namath,” for decades. Do you feel any pressure? How will you go about being that guy and why are you that guy that’s up for the challenge?
I have confidence in myself of course but I got confidence in the ownership and all the way down through these new coaches and the players. I’ve heard from multiple sources how talented this team is but maybe the pieces just didn’t align. I’m so excited to get in there and then just try and figure out what we can do to make it better. This is a team game. You can go from a losing season one year to a winning season the next. You can flip it real quick. I’m excited to get in there and help make this thing work.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Zach, there was a report that you had contacted former Jets quarterbacks. Mark Sanchez, Chad Pennington, Josh McCown. Is that right? What kind of advice did those guys give you?
Yeah. I talked to a couple of them. I actually haven’t called Chad yet. I need to, but McCown gave me some of the best advice. He was just talking how amazing of a situation this is. How he came from a small town in Texas, I believe. He never wanted to go to the big city and he got there to New York and he loved it. He said he loved living in Jersey and he loved the culture and he loved the atmosphere and culture that Joe Douglas was bringing in some of the hires that he made. He just felt like that team was right there on the rise. I thought that was so cool to hear that from him. It gives you confidence in being able to go in there and it made it very comforting to know that I’m going into a great situation.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: Zach, you talked about wanting to grow and kind of learn. What do you think you need to learn and grow and improve on to be effective at the next level?
What’s so hard is when you dominate as well as we did at BYU. Not just myself, the team, when you win as many games as we did, it’s really hard to pinpoint one thing of improvement. I honestly think I can get better in every single aspect. I think I can get better in the pocket with pocket movements, the ability to throw from a phone booth. Small, tight spaces. Accuracy can always get better and then decision making Along with this process of getting to the NFL comes a new learning curve. You’re going to learn about different defenses and you’re going to have Pro Bowlers lined up across from you. You’re going to have to try and study the ins and outs of those guys and what make them special. You’ve got to be able to react and make plays off of it.
Joey Chandler, NJ Advance Media: If you could speak to the 17-year-old version of yourself about this moment and everything in between, what would you say?
I’ll say just keep pushing. Adversity, you have all the highs and lows and I would say just keep pushing because eventually the cream rises to the top. If you’re doing all the right things, saying all the right things and giving it everything you have, eventually it’s going to work out for you.