Zach Wilson Introduction, 4.30
Brian Costello, New York Post: Hey Zach, can you describe what this last, I don’t know how many hours it’s been, 16, 18 hours has been since you got drafted?
Yeah, it’s been surreal. I can’t really explain the emotions, going into the whole thing, but I’m so excited to have this opportunity to be here. We actually got into New Jersey this morning and, beautiful place. We’re flying in over the top, saw a bunch of golf courses, which is good. I’m not very good golf player, but I’m getting there, but it was a blast. I’ve had a great time, sharing this moment with my friends and family, and my family came in this morning and they love it. We’ve been at the facility and we’re having a blast.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Zach, what have you done since you got into the facility? I mean, what people have you met, have you seen the facilities and took the tour of that building and so forth?
We came in, we dropped off at the hotel, kind of got settled. We came over and had lunch with the coaches and some of the personnel and staff. And then, from there we got a tour, we got to walk around, check out the facilities. I got to talk to some of the players and it’s been a great experience, I can tell you that.
Dana Greene, ABC 4: Zach, you kind of knew it was going to happen. You were ready to walk out on stage, but when you actually heard your name called, can you even describe what that was like? Did it sink in then, or is it still not even really sunken in with you?
Yeah, no doubt. I don’t know if it’s really hit me still. And it’s crazy to think of where I was a year ago and how I got to this situation. I’m so blessed and excited to be in this position. And, I’m not an emotional guy, but last night, obviously getting my name called was a special moment for me, especially to come to an organization like this. I’m truly so excited because everything for me was about situation. It’s landing with the right team, the right owner’s organization, the right players. And I feel like this is exactly what I needed. And so, I’m so excited to be part of this team.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Zach, it looked like you got a chance to talk a little bit with Mike LaFleur today. Can you just go over what those conversations were like, if you’re looking forward to playing with him, how your personalities mesh up and then, just as a quick, completely unrelated up, but did you pick a jersey number by any chance, of what you’re going to wear?
Yeah, I haven’t picked the jersey number yet. I think we’re kind of thinking about that in the future. We’re not sure what we’re going to do there, but, Coach LaFleur is awesome. We get along super well. It’s natural, it’s easy. Easy guy to talk to and joke around with and get along with, and the cool part is you don’t always have to talk about football. We can just talk about whatever, life, and he’s a great guy. I’m so excited to work with him. He’s a cool dude. I think, what he’s going to be doing with scheme wise is going to be exactly what we need.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Zach, have you had a moment yet in Cleveland or on the plane or anything where, this just kind of sunk in that, a year ago, you weren’t sure you were even a starting quarterback at BYU. Maybe you were sure, but your coaches weren’t sure. A year later, you’re the number two pick in the draft. You’re now the quarterback of the New York Jets. Has that sunk in yet at all?
It hasn’t. My girlfriend actually said to me last night, she goes, “I feel like we’re going to wake up and all of this is going to be a dream.” And it’s so cool to be in this position, and all I can really take away from it is just gratitude and how thankful I am to even be in the situation, understanding the highs and the lows and, really, I just got to earn my stripes now. That draft spot is really just an opportunity to come in here and work as hard as I can, to be one of the dudes, make some good connections with these guys and give everything I have every day.
Dana Greene, ABC 4: Zach, there were probably a bunch of congratulatory texts and calls. Anyone that sticks out or one that you maybe didn’t expect from?
Yeah. I mean, obviously some different ones from quarterbacks around the league and I obviously always appreciate that, different players reaching out. I mean, one of my favorite calls in the night of course was to my grandparents who mean the world to me, who have supported me and every single aspect in my life. So it was awesome to give them a phone call and just kind of ask them what they thought about the whole thing and they were so excited.
Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Zach, you’ve talked about this a little bit, being underdog from high school to college and that kind of thing, but do you still feel that way? I mean, it sounds weird to think a number two overall pick is an underdog, but how do you feel about that?
Yeah, I wouldn’t say the underdog mentality as much anymore. I’d say, the ability to still prove something, because I mean, if you’re the second overall pick and you don’t perform and you don’t work hard, it really means nothing down the road. And so all this is an opportunity for me to come to an amazing organization and taking the same approach that I did when no one believed in me back at BYU at a time after my sophomore year. So it’s really that prove-them-wrong mentality of just being able to have that chip on your shoulder and making sure every day you’re working and doing everything you can, no matter how high the highs are or low the lows are.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Zach, the Jets had posted a video of one of your initial conversations with Robert (Saleh) when you guys had made the call. And one of the things he said was, they’re going to be the team that lifts you up. When you were a young quarterback drafted to the face of the franchise, franchise quarterback, a lot of the pressure is automatically put on your shoulders. So, to hear that, did it alleviate any of that or what did it kind of mean to you when you heard him say that?
Well, it did. And I think that’s what’s so cool, why like Coach Saleh so much is, he genuinely understands that football’s such a team game. There’s 53-man roster, and it takes every single piece to make this thing around, one guy is not going to do it on his own. That’s what’s so special about this team is they’ve put together such a great plan, and I can rely on all the dudes around me. I can’t wait to get to know them and everything that they have. And I know these guys are putting energy and time every single day, so I can’t wait to get with them and that’s what’s going to make it all work.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Zach, there was some adversity, especially back at BYU that, you dealt with that injury or whatnot. So, adversity is not foreign to you. So, whenever there is some turbulence, how will you be able to handle it?
Yeah, I think it’s finding those that matter in your circle. I think the biggest thing is being able to rely on those that truly want the best for you – your coaches, your teammates – and just getting better. Every single time there’s bumps in the road, you’re going through adversity, that’s a learning experience. Every single thing that I’ve gone through, the lowest of lows of injuries and losing games, last second games, whatever it is, I’ve learned so many amazing experiences from all of those. And, honestly is part of the reason why I’m here today because of how many things I’ve learned from that. And so, it’s keeping that circle tight and being able to just rely on those that truly have your back.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Zach, you’ve talked about being a leader and that kind of comes with being a quarterback. You’re only 21. I mean this in a good way, you look like you’re 21. You’re going to have guys around you who are in their 30s, who might have four kids. Is that going to be a challenge to lead some of the older guys and, how do you think you’ll go about that as a rookie?
Well, it’s funny. BYU has got a bunch of older guys too with the missions and everything, so I’m a little used to it, but, it’s just normal. When you get to this age and you are surrounded by people all with the same goal, the same vision, the same drive, you all start to connect on such a deeper level than just age group wise. Some of my best friends at BYU have three kids, and it’s crazy because, maybe we got different backgrounds as well, but we’re all doing the same thing every day. We’re all grinding and playing to win games. And so, I think once I get in that locker room, I really get to know these guys, I really get to show them I’m giving them my all. I think that’s where leadership starts to build, and they know like, “Hey, you know what? This kid’s dedicated. He’s going to give everything he has.” That’s where it starts to grow together because, we’re all genuinely here to win some football games.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Zach, it seems like every picture that runs of you in a newspaper and a website, has you wearing the headband? I know this is a hard-hitting football question here, but what was the genesis of starting to wear the headband and, is there a meaning behind it, and do you plan to continue?
Yeah, I don’t know. I’ll definitely wear a headband. I have to wear it or else I’m sweating all over my face and can’t see while I’m throwing the ball, but I can’t remember exactly where it came from. I think I love the look of the headband coming out of the back of the helmet. Something that kind of separates you and makes you kind of look different from maybe another quarterback or something, but I always just kind of thought it had a cool look to it. So, I’m sure we’ll be able to figure something out.
(follow-up) And also the messages you have on there too, right?
That was back at BYU. And the reason we put the, “Any team, Any time, Any place,” on there was, obviously people were doubting our schedule, and the message behind it was, it wasn’t a cocky statement at all. It was more of, you know what, we’re confident in ourselves and we’re ready to play anybody, no matter where, no matter when. People doubted the level of competition that we played and we weren’t afraid to play against anyone. So, it was really just, if you want to play us then play us.
Dana Greene, ABC 4: Zach, we all know how brutal the media is here in Utah. It’s a little different in New York. How does your temperament going to help you with the expectations, the pressure, and if things don’t go well, hearing it from the fans, especially right away, how does your temperament kind of help you to kind of overcome some of those struggles if you have them early on?
Well, I signed up for this, since I was seven years old, I signed up to play quarterback and that’s what comes with job and it’s exciting. It’s what makes it fun. The fans what make the game so fun and exciting. And so, it’s handling it the exact same way I did at BYU, is taking it one day at a time, it’s getting back in the film room, finding out what things I could have done better, hanging out with my teammates and finding out how we can come together better and how we can follow the Coach’s plan and make things happen. And, there’s going to be ups and downs, no matter what.
Bob Glauber, Newsday: Zach, there was some debate about the Coastal Carolina game that you lost. There was some criticism about that, but you came kind of within inches of making that all the way back. Did that game come up with your conversations with the Jets, and what do you think about that game overall and what the meaning was in the end?
Yeah, it was crazy. It goes back to the “Any team, Any time, Any place,” kind of thing. What an opportunity that was for us to play that game. We lost, unfortunately, but I would never take the learning experiences that I picked up in that game, the things that me and my guys at BYU went through at that time, to fight through some adversity, to come back at the end and to almost win it. That’s what makes football so much fun, is to be able to go through games like that. I think it’s unfortunate we lost, but I learned a lot of good things, and then when it comes to the Jets, I know they love the poise and the ability that we had to pull some things together and be able to make some plays at the end of the game. Besides that, that was as short as I kept it.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Zach, stylistically your game reminds a lot of people of Aaron Rodgers. Talking to coaches, players, that’s one player that you idolized and wanted to model your game after. Why did you choose Aaron Rodgers and not Tom Brady or Russell Wilson? Why Aaron Rodgers?
I mean, every single guy you named right there is amazing, right? And I would love to be anyone near those guys, the careers that they’ve had and, looking at myself, it’s crazy because I was such a big Aaron Rodgers fan just from day one, as a young kid, just watching the plays that he made, the way that he did it, that’s why that was someone I pushed to try and be. Obviously now at this stage, growing up, getting to high school, college, the NFL, it’s really finding my own style, who I am as a quarterback, and how I can be my own player. No more trying to be like other guys. And I’m going to be the quarterback I am and give it my all. And it’s going to all work itself out.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Zach, a lot of what I think people credit you for some of that improvisational skills that you have when a play breaks down, your ability to make plays when everything goes wrong. What goes into that? I mean, is that just innate, is that just something you see, and plays happen to happen? I mean, what goes into those types of highlight reel things you do?
Yeah, no doubt. It’s definitely not trying to make it harder than it is. You want to keep the game as simple as possible. And I feel like that’s maybe one of the things I picked up by playing basketball my whole life. I was a big basketball guy and the ability to react and be able to try and make plays out of nothing, I felt was always something that was just part of my game growing up. And now, I’m to the point where I want to be that pocket passer, that guy that can make plays. And then when the time comes, you’re able to escape and find someone down the field and extend, and I hope that can give our team the best situation to win.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Zach, you haven’t played a game in four months, but you’ve been dissected for the last four months by a lot of us and other media members. Was there anything that was said during this pre-draft process, any criticism that you thought was unfair or anything that particularly bothered you that you wanted to answer?
Well, just the fact everyone thought I was six feet (tall). I mean, that was, that was a little harsh. (laughing) No, joking aside, I’ve had a great process. There’s always going to be criticisms, but that’s what we live for. This game is exciting. People always have an opinion. That’s what makes it fun.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Zach, you have plenty of great plays, throughout the 2020 season, that’s why you were the number two overall pick. What was your favorite play from last season?
I don’t know if I could say a favorite play. I could definitely tell you, the UCF game in general was a blast. That was our last game. And it was an emotional one just because, me and some of the guys that I had worked and battled through with since my freshman year, the ups and downs, we had two 7-6 seasons. They were 4-9 the year before I got there. And, it was finally a year that we were having some success. So, it was our last game of the year. And me and all the guys were like, “You know what? This is the last time this team’s going to be together.” And I think that’s what’s so special about having that team atmosphere and that camaraderie with each other, is that’s so special. There wasn’t a play in there, but it was the fact that we dominated the game and we all came together and did it together, made it truly, truly exciting. And that was obviously my most fond memory of last year.
Dana Greene, ABC 4: Zach, what is the biggest memory or the biggest lessons you learned from BYU that you learned that made you the player that you are today?
I got in my freshman year and I was all about grinding as hard as I could. Me, working on me all the time. And then, my junior year, I figured out how important it is to elevate those guys around you and to build emotional connections with those guys and push them to be something special. That leadership role is amazing, and it’s truly leading by example. I think those friendships that you have are truly so amazing and they have such a huge role in being able to be successful as a football team. And that’s what I realized was the most important aspect is the team.
Steve Overmyer, WCBS: Hey Zach, the Jets have spent the last two drafts – first round draft picks on offensive lineman. How much more confidence does that give you that you’ll have enough time in the pocket to make the passes?
Yeah, that’s awesome. And, these guys have a plan, I don’t know exactly what it is, but we’re going to find out soon, but, I love some of the decisions that they’ve made so far because, o-line is where a team starts from.