New York Jets backup quarterback Zach Wilson, the former BYU star, was back in Utah a few weekends ago after wrapping up organized team practice activities with his NFL team and new Jets QB Aaron Rodgers on June 9.

“It is hard, because you never know how it is going to play out. He could go there and never play, or he could go there and get drafted in the top five. You never know. So it is all about making the best decision you can at the moment, and then just kinda rolling with it.” — Zach Wilson on brother Isaac picking Utah over BYU

After spending a few days with his family in Draper, Wilson told the Deseret News on June 13 that he planned to “go on a little vacation with my girlfriend’s family next week” and then continue training in Utah until Jets training camp begins on July 18.

“We have about 40 days off (from team activities) and then it is back to training camp,” he said. “So I am just kinda training on my own right now, and spending time with my friends and family and just working on improving any way I can.”

The 23-year-old Wilson confirmed that his girlfriend is Nicolette Dellanno, a model, TikTok star, social media influencer and dress designer in New York City. Dellanno came out to Utah over Memorial Day weekend and accompanied Wilson and his family to Lake Powell, Park City, other tourist spots and their cabin near Tibble Fork Reservoir in American Fork Canyon, he said.

“This is totally different than where she is from in New Jersey,” Wilson said. “She really enjoyed it. She said she likes it out here.”

Wilson said he has been dating Dellanno for “a year or so” and that his family enjoyed the 21-year-old’s visit.

“She used to do some TikTok stuff for fun, but she is actually one of the top designers at this company called Morgan & Co.,” he said. “They make dresses, like mother of the bride, and prom dresses. So she works in New York City and she gets to design dresses every day, which is a pretty cool gig.”

Wilson primarily spoke to the Deseret News for a Father’s Day article on his father, Mike Wilson, but agreed to answer a few other questions on a wide variety of topics a few days after having addressed the media at the Jets training center in New Jersey. 

There, he spoke at length about his demotion to backup QB, New York’s acquisition of his good friend Rodgers, his appreciation for new Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, and other football-related issues.

New York Jets quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, left, and Zach Wilson warm up at the team’s training facility in Florham Park, N.J., Tuesday, June 6, 2023. Wilson said his struggles the past two seasons has humbled him, but he’s “psyched” about working with and learning from Rodgers, the player he idolized as a kid. Rodgers says Wilson has been “incredible” this offseason. | Seth Wenig, Associated Press

“Right now I am having a ton of fun,” Wilson said in New Jersey. “Like, more fun than I have had. And I think that is just, the quarterback room, being with Aaron. I think it is feeling like every single day there is so much to learn. … Every day I am just like, ‘Wow, I just learned 10 different things about playing the quarterback position.’”

Wilson, who is the oldest of Mike and Lisa Wilson’s four sons, called the 39-year-old Rodgers the “big brother I never had” and “the greatest quarterback of all time,” and said his own first two seasons in the NFL have “absolutely” humbled him.

“I can’t be bitter with the situation,” Zach Wilson said. “I didn’t perform well.”

Here’s more from my conversation with Wilson, who I have covered since he signed with BYU in December 2017 out of Draper’s Corner Canyon High. Some answers have been edited for clarity and context:

• On his youngest brother, Isaac, committing to play quarterback for BYU’s biggest rival, the University of Utah:

“Yeah, I thought it was perfect for him. Whenever you are coming out of high school, it is always different. The team at BYU is different than when I was there. There were some other schools he was looking at, too.

“But I think you just have to look at the situation at this point and what works best for him. When I was coming out of high school, BYU was the best option for me. And it ended up working out. But I feel like for him in this situation it was Utah. And it was hard for him, because people were like, ‘follow your brother.’ It is the Utah vs. BYU thing.

“But if there is anything I have learned in the NFL, and with sports in general, it is truly a business. You can’t worry about feelings and emotions. You have to do what is best for yourself and I truly felt like that is what was best for him as well. 

“It is hard, because you never know how it is going to play out. He could go there and never play, or he could go there and get drafted in the top five. You never know. So it is all about making the best decision you can at the moment, and then just kinda rolling with it.”

• On why and when he bought his father a new truck:

“I sorta put the order in around Christmas, but it took a little longer. It was kind of an overall gift, not really specific to one holiday. Just a gift in general for him, for just helping me.

“He sacrificed a lot. My mom always gets mad because we don’t do a lot of family vacations or he doesn’t like to do any fun stuff. But he spends a lot of money on training and taking us to camps, and taking us all over the country to go to these seven-on-seven events and basketball tournaments.

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“She was always frustrated, because that is where his money went, to us kids to be able to play sports and stuff. So it was kinda like a thank you for the sacrifice. He spent a lot of money to just try and help me become a good player.”

• On his Jets teammates’ questions about his time at BYU:

“People always have a lot of questions about it: ‘What is it like going to BYU? What are the people like? What are the beliefs?’ I get asked all kinds of stuff about BYU. Bottom line is they always have respect for it and an appreciation of it, and it is always good to rep the Y, moving around and stuff.

“And then there are getting to be so many BYU guys in the NFL, that it isn’t that (novel). The majority of the guys who are asking me stuff have already spent time with other BYU guys, too. So they have a strong appreciation for them.”

• On where he stays when he comes back to Utah:

“I don’t have my own place back here in Utah. I crash in my mom’s basement. I stay with the parents. My girlfriend lives in New Jersey and she works full time so she is not really able to come out here.

“I am not really sure where I want to live one day (when his NFL career ends). But say I bought a house in Utah, and I am just sitting there alone by myself all day. It doesn’t make any sense. I would prefer to hang out with the family. You know, I am not ever here that long anyway, so it is nice to spend time with them when I can actually see them.”

• On the shape of his golf game, where he plays in Utah and New Jersey:

“I am still shooting like a 95, which is terrible. I feel like I don’t have enough time to go play enough, because I need to figure out this football thing first.”

“In Utah, I go with a lot of my buddies, who are still college students, so we go to Sleepy Ridge in Orem because it is cheap and always easy to get on and we will go play a quick nine over there every once in a while.

“I would say the majority of my golf comes during OTAs when I am in New Jersey, because some of the most beautiful courses in the country are out there, unbelievable courses that the players get to go play on, like the Trump National in Bedminster is unbelievable.

“We went and played Due Process (Stables) golf course the other day. There are some amazing courses out there, just beautiful courses.”

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• On what about the NFL has surprised him that he wasn’t ready for:

“A lot. Yeah, it is tough. It is 100% a different game. There is way more studying that goes into it. There is way more philosophy. It truly is a huge jump from college. But I would say the transition from my first two years to this year so far is a lot different, too.

“I am learning so much football now, and I have only been there for a month (with new offensive staff). It is the most football I have learned in two years. So I am really enjoying that aspect of being able to experience different things.

“You know, I just jumped into the NFL doing something completely different. Now I am learning a new scheme. I get to learn from Aaron (Rodgers) and it is completely different than what I was doing my first two years, so it makes me eager and excited because I think it is going to be the best thing that can help me for my development.”

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