Ever since BYU quarterback Zach Wilson declared for the NFL draft on Jan. 1 after a triumphant 2020 season, there was speculation about where he would end up.
The prevailing theory throughout much of the last four months was that he might be a target for the New York Jets, a team with a new head coach in Robert Saleh and needing a new face for the program.
In the end, the choice came in exactly as expected.
After the Jacksonville Jaguars did what everyone assumed they would and took Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick, the Jets were only officially on the clock for eight of the 10 minutes before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the podium and made the official announcement.
“With the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select Zach Wilson, quarterback, BYU,” Goodell said.
Wilson made his way from the Green Room to the stage and donned the Jets hat, the New York fans in attendance and shown on camera on the television broadcast cheered.
He high-fived Jets fans at the NFL Draft Theater and gave Goodell a bear hug before posing for photos.
“You know what, I wouldn’t believe it until the day it happened. But this is exactly what I was hoping for. So excited for the opportunity and I know we are going to have something special. I can’t wait to get to work,” he told ESPN. “These guys need a good quarterback, a good leader. I think I got those qualities and I can’t wait to go in there. I love the coaching staff, I love everything they have to offer and I can’t wait to get to New York City.”
Wilson became the highest pick in BYU football history, surpassing the mark set by quarterback Jim McMahon in 1982 and defensive lineman Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah in 2013, both of whom were selected fifth.
Wilson is the 10th Cougar in program history to be selected in the first round of the regular NFL Draft and the 12th overall including the NFL’s 1984 supplemental draft of USFL and CFL players.
“A dream come true, and it’s just the beginning,” Wilson tweeted from his @zachkapono1 Twitter account after the pick. “You haven’t seen anything yet! RT if you’re with me @nyjets fans! #NFLDraft2021 @Verizon #VerizonPartner”
Former BYU offensive lineman and ESPN college football analyst Trevor Matich tweeted some advice to Wilson from his @TMatich Twitter account:
“#BYU’s Zach Wilson to the Jets! I played there, tough town. My advice:
“1.Write a list of everything needed to succeed on field. Add a couple of outside interests. Exclude everything else for two yrs.
“2. You’re more mobile than TB12, but study how he protects himself.
#BYU's Zach Wilson to the Jets! I played there, tough town. My advice:— Trevor Matich (@TMatich) April 30, 2021
1.Write a list of everything needed to succeed on field. Add a couple of outside interests. Exclude everything else for two yrs.
2. You're more mobile than TB12, but study how he protects himself.#NFLdraft
The Jets made an immediate move in an attempt to protect Wilson, as New York traded up to get the No. 14 pick and selected USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Vera-Tucker was considered by many to be the third-best lineman in the draft, so making a move to get him showed that the organization is determined to improve in the trenches and that would give Wilson a better chance to succeed.
Wilson became the fifth BYU player drafted by the Jets, joining defensive back Chris Farasopoulos (third round, 1971), wide receiver Lloyd Jones (eighth round, 1981), offensive lineman Eric Bateman (fifth round, 1998) and fullback Dustin Johnson (sixth round, 1998).
Another Top 10 draftee with Utah Valley ties was Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell, who was selected by the Detroit Lions with the No. 7 pick overall. He played at Desert Hills High in St. George but his dad, Gabe Sewell, is the head coach of the Orem High football team.