All eyes are on Zach Wilson this week, but how have other BYU QBs fared in the NFL?

Wilson is expected to be taken with the second pick of the draft by the New York Jets, but 11 BYU quarterbacks have been drafted since 1967 and two more signed as free agents.

Zach Wilson has been all the rage in the monthslong buildup to this month’s NFL draft. He’s expected to be taken with the second pick of the draft by the New York Jets. The Jets will make a big investment in their latest quarterback. The second pick of the 2020 draft, Chase Young, received a five-year, $34.6 million contract with a $22.7 million signing bonus.

Wilson comes from a school that is famous for producing prolific college quarterbacks, but with so much money and expectation on the line it’s natural to wonder how BYU quarterbacks have actually fared in the NFL.

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NFL teams have drafted 11 BYU quarterbacks since 1967 and signed two more as free agents. Nine of them played in the league and broke into the starting lineup; two of them won Super Bowls as the starter. Four of them never played a down, two of them because of shoulder injuries that originated during their college career but were either undetected or ignored by NFL scouts. 

Here’s a look at the performance of BYU quarterbacks in the NFL:

Virgil Carter (sixth round, Chicago Bears, 1967)

Carter played eight years in the NFL, for the Bears, Bengals, Chargers and, again, the Bears, with a mid-career year with the Chicago Fire of the World Football League. He played in 52 games, started 30 of them and finished with a 16-14 win-loss record. He threw for 5,063 yards, 29 TDs and 31 interceptions. He ran for another 640 yards and eight TDs. 

Gary Sheide (third round, Cincinnati Bengals, 1975)

Sheide showed up at the Bengals’ training camp with a severe case of tendonitis in his right shoulder and elbow, which had bothered him so much during his senior year in college that he had rarely been able to practice. His passes had no zip on them and Bengals coaches found themselves calling for shorter passes as a result. “It got to the point where I just couldn’t throw,” he told the Deseret News in 2010. Sheide was released on the final cut. A year later the Jets signed him as a backup for Joe Namath, but he was cut again.

Gifford Nielsen (third round, Houston Oilers, 1978)

Nielsen played six seasons in the NFL, all for the Oilers, mostly as a backup to Dan Pastorini and then Ken Stabler. He started 11 games during his last two seasons while splitting time with Archie Manning and Oliver Luck. One of those starts was a playoff game, which the Oilers won. He threw for 3,255 yards, 20 TDs and 22 interceptions.

Marc Wilson (first round, 15th overall, Oakland Raiders, 1980)

Wilson had an up-and-down 10-year NFL run, eight of them with the Raiders, two with the Patriots. He was the backup to Jim Plunkett as a rookie when the Raiders won the Super Bowl. He won the starting job in 1983, but was sidelined by an injury and Plunkett led the Raiders to another Super Bowl win. Wilson came back to lead the Raiders to a division title in 1985, but the team lost in the playoffs. In sum, Wilson was the future of the team but he was repeatedly outplayed during his career by the aging Plunkett. In all, he passed for 14,391 yards, 86 TDs and 102 interceptions and finished with a 32-28 record. 

Jim McMahon (first round, 5th overall, Chicago Bears, 1982)

BYU coach LaVell Edwards once confided that when the Bears inquired about McMahon, the coach told them he would win a Super Bowl, and that’s what he did in his fourth season. McMahon was extraordinarily talented and accomplished, but he didn’t have the level of success many expected, partly because of injuries and partly because he played for the conservative Bears and prior to the passing era. He played 15 seasons, eight of them for Chicago, where he compiled a 46-15 record. He went on to play for the Chargers, Eagles, Vikings, Cardinals and Packers, but his playing time dwindled over the years. He threw for 18,148 yards, 100 TDs, 90 interceptions and had a record of 67-30.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young throws against the St. Louis Rams Nov. 26, 1995. He played 15 NFL seasons, but his NFL career really didn’t take off until his seventh season; nevertheless, he threw for 33,124 yards, 232 TDs and 107 interceptions, and compiled a record of 94-49. | Paul Sakuma, Associated Press

Steve Young (first overall of supplemental draft, 1984)

After two seasons in the United States Football League, Young joined the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons before being rescued by the 49ers and coach Bill Walsh. He was a backup to the great Joe Montana for four seasons before winning the starting job and then began a Hall of Fame career that culminated with a Super Bowl championship, as well as two NFL MVP trophies and seven Pro Bowl selections. He’s usually included in any discussion of the game’s all-time great quarterbacks. He played 15 NFL seasons, but his NFL career really didn’t take off until his seventh season; nevertheless, he threw for 33,124 yards, 232 TDs and 107 interceptions, and compiled a record of 94-49.

Robbie Bosco (third round, Green Bay Packers, 1986)

Like Sheide, Bosco was already damaged goods when he showed up at training camp. After leading BYU to the 1984 national championship, he injured his arm the following season and lost much of his arm strength, as his receivers all attested later. The shoulder throbbed even when he was doing nothing more strenuous than sitting in a chair, and the pain was such that he threw sparingly in pregame warmups. “Then I go to Green Bay, and they can see I can’t throw,” Bosco told the Deseret News in 1994. Packer coach Forrest Gregg wondered aloud if Bosco would ever play football again. Bosco was sent to Dr. Frank Jobe, a legendary orthopedic surgeon. According to Bosco, Jobe found torn ligaments and tendons. As Bosco later related, he was actually relieved to learn that there was a reason for all that pain and those interceptions. “He told me every time I threw a pass my shoulder actually separated, and then when I brought my arm back down it would go back in place.”

Bosco underwent surgery and spent two years on the Packers injured reserve, but his arm never fully recovered and he was released. Looking back during a 1994 interview, Bosco wondered how NFL doctors, coaches and scouts failed to detect such a serious injury. He passed several physicals at NFL combines, enduring the pain as they pulled and bent his arm and shoulder.

“They never seemed to find out,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to hide (the injury) because I didn’t know I was hiding anything. I still didn’t know what it was.”

In the end, it was a lost opportunity for an outstanding quarterback who landed with a quarterback-needy team.

Cleveland Browns coach Chris Palmer goes over strategy with quarterback Ty Detmer Sunday, Sept. 12, 1999 in Cleveland. Detmer played for the Packers, Eagles, 49ers, Browns, Lions and Falcons, he saw action in 54 games (including 25 starts), passing for 6,351 yards, 34 touchdowns and 35 interceptions, with an 11-14 record. | Mark Duncan, Associated Press

Ty Detmer (ninth round, Green Bay Packers, 1992)

Detmer, the 1990 Heisman Trophy winner, had a 14-year NFL run. Playing for the Packers, Eagles, 49ers, Browns, Lions and Falcons, he saw action in 54 games (including 25 starts), passing for 6,351 yards, 34 touchdowns and 35 interceptions, with an 11-14 record. His best season was 1996, when he became the Eagles’ starter and won seven of 11 games to take the team to the playoffs. He passed for 2,911 yards and 15 touchdowns that season and ranked among the best passers in the league, once earning the player-of-the-week honors. A year later he shared the job with two other quarterbacks and the year after that he joined the 49ers.

John Walsh (seventh round, Cincinnati Bengals, 1995)

Walsh became the cautionary tale for those who leave college early for the draft. Draft gurus targeted Walsh as a first-round pick. Based on that information, the quarterback left school after his junior year to declare for the draft. It was a mistake. He was taken in the seventh round and was cut early. He never played in the league.

Brandon Doman (fifth round, San Francisco 49ers, 2002)

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Doman spent two seasons with the 49ers as a third quarterback and spent another season as a practice squad player elsewhere, but never saw action in an NFL game.

John Beck (second round, Miami Dolphins, 2007)

Beck, the fourth quarterback taken in the draft (and the 40th player overall), played six seasons in the league, but saw game action in only two of them. He played for the Dolphins, Ravens, Washington and Texans. He started seven games, all losses. He passed for 1,417 yards, three TDs and seven interceptions.

Max Hall (undrafted free agent, Arizona Cardinals, 2010)

Hall was signed by his hometown team and played one season. He wound up playing in six games and started three of them, including one win. In Hall’s first start, the Cardinals beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, although Hall had a shaky game (he completed 17 of 27 passes for 168 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, and fumbled twice). His season passing stats: 370 yards, one TD and seven interceptions.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill drops back to pass during game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Philadelphia. In four seasons, he has collected 1,145 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing and receiving and passed for another 1,047 yards and four touchdowns. | Chris Szagola, Associated Press

Taysom Hill (undrafted free agent, Green Bay Packers, 2017)

Is there anyone who doesn’t know Hill’s story? Signed and then cut by the Packers, he was picked up immediately by the Saints. Since then, he has become a sensation as a multipurpose player, starring at quarterback, running back, slot receiver, tight end and on special teams. The Saints rewarded him with a big contract extension last year. With the retirement of future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, Hill appears set to be his replacement. In four seasons, he has collected 1,145 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing and receiving and passed for another 1,047 yards and four touchdowns.

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