Spunky little Zach Wilson could barely contain his excitement. His first practice as a member of the Sandy-Jordan A Team in the Ute Conference youth football league had finally arrived. His former college defensive lineman father was the coach, and he had yet to settle on a position.

Mike Wilson lined up all the players for a hitting drill, to get an idea of who could do what, and 7-year-old Zach found himself opposite the biggest boy on the team.

“They put me up against this kid who was probably 250 pounds, just massive,” Wilson, now 21, said of that day some 14 years ago. “I remember being so scared of getting clobbered by Justin Mobley. That’s my first football memory. I’ve never forgotten that.”

And he never lined up with the linemen again.

“The thing I would say about Zach, and it is not a bad thing, is that he kinda gets obsessive over things. That just kind of drives him, even in football. I don’t know if he got that from my mom, or what, but he is just very determined.” — BYU freshman linebacker Josh Wilson, Zach Wilson’s brother

That first year, Wilson says he played a variety of positions “as one of the better players on the team.” But the next year, after plotting, preparing and working out with his father all offseason, a practice that continues to this day, Wilson became the team’s starting quarterback, and he has been working to master the position ever since.

With a steely, obsessive resolve that quickly becomes apparent to anyone with whom he associates, Wilson says he determined that day that he wanted to play the most important positions in the two sports he loved — quarterback in football and point guard in basketball.

“I’ve always wanted to be the guy with the ball in his hands,” he said.

He carries a quiet confidence — not cockiness — that offensive teammates at BYU say makes them think they are going to score every time they get on the field.

“There’s just something about him where he wants to be ‘The Man,’” says BYU teammate, housemate and favorite receiver Dax Milne, who has known Wilson since they were Little League prodigies competing against each other “in every sport our parents could find to put us in.”

BYU Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson warms up prior to the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“My whole Little League career and even into high school at first I never really thought about playing college football, let alone in the NFL,” Wilson said. “I was more into basketball and was thinking that would be the future sport for me.”

But he says he became “super serious” about football midway through high school, and now the BYU junior is on the precipice of being among the elite quarterbacks taken early in the first round of April’s NFL draft.

In Zach Wilson’s short BYU stay, he carved a few marks on school’s Mount Rushmore

This is the story of the rise of Zach Wilson, and the key decisions that brought a record-setting 2020 season to BYU and the promise of dream-come-true opportunity and riches for Wilson in 2021. Through interviews with more than a dozen teammates, friends, coaches, neighbors and rivals comes a portrait of an athlete they say is driven, obsessed and never satisfied.

Zach Wilson’s parents

The TV broadcast version of his story has been repeated countless times: Wilson grew up a huge fan of University of Utah football, attended longtime Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham’s camps, but was not offered a scholarship to play for his dream school, ending up instead at its biggest rival.

He originally committed to play for Boise State before his high school senior season, only to switch allegiances and sign with the school he despised as a youngster following a trip to the BYU campus in Provo.

How did it happen? Just what was said to turn Zach Wilson toward BYU?

Mike and Lisa Wilson, the Ute fans, are well-off small business owners. They live in a spacious home with a swimming pool and basketball court in their backyard a few blocks from Corner Canyon High and are dedicated to their children.

“Zach would come back from working with (3DQB) and you could see he’d developed another skill, another throw. We saw that all the time. No question it was good for him.” — BYU passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick

This allowed the Wilsons’ investment in Zach to stretch well beyond their time and energy, say friends of the family, noting the tens of thousands of dollars spent on training, weightlifting and exercise equipment, travel and professional instruction that includes former BYU standout John Beck’s 3DQB football camp for quarterbacks.

When Zach was in high school, he would fly from one school’s camp to another in the same day, or just days apart. Once, when a 7-on-7 team needed a quarterback for a tournament in Arizona and summoned Wilson, he flew in on two hours notice.

Mission impossible: Tom Holmoe and the fight to play sports during a pandemic

“That isn’t cheap,” said one team official.

“They spared no expense, but they didn’t just give him everything. He had to work for it with sheer dedication to it,” said a parent of one of Wilson’s high school teammates. “His mom and dad were all in, all the time. They still are.”

Could Wilson have developed without it?

Probably not to this extent, says BYU passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick, often credited by Wilson himself for being a quarterback whisperer, of sorts — a calming influence and sounding board in his three seasons at BYU.

“Zach would come back from working with (3DQB) and you could see he’d developed another skill, another throw,” Roderick said last spring. “We saw that all the time. No question it was good for him.”

Proving them wrong

Wilson is known for the headband he wore late in the season about BYU’s willingness to play any opponent, any time, any place. But a less-visible wristband he wears is far more telling: “Prove them wrong.”

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson reacts after the Cougars’ win against North Alabama in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Provo, Utah. | Jeff Swinger, Associated Press

That mentality stems from not only the snub from the Utes (they said they had already signed a quarterback that year), but the way his recruitment never really took off as much as he thought it should have.

“I felt like he was very under-recruited,” said his high school coach, Eric Kjar. “I was shocked about that. … If Zach played in California, he would have had every Pac-12 school offer him before he got to his senior year, but because he is from Utah, I think there is a little bit of that thing where they pause a little bit.”

Wilson threw for 2,986 yards and 24 TDs and ran for 752 yards and eight TDs his senior year at Corner Canyon, and recruiting picked up, even though he was committed to Boise State and the family already had an orange-and-blue Broncos flag flying in front of its house.

He was supposed to visit the Big Ten’s Iowa the last weekend before the December early signing period was to begin in 2017. But he took that trip to BYU and head coach Kalani Sitake stepped in.

Last-minute maneuvering: How BYU whisked Heisman Trophy candidate Zach Wilson away from Boise State

Getting past the ‘BYU thing’

“Kalani talked me into it,” is how Wilson describes the way he ended up at BYU. “And he talked my mom into it.”

Indeed, Lisa Wilson initially wanted nothing to do with BYU because she felt like Cougar coaches didn’t act quickly enough in their recruiting efforts in the months before Zach committed to Boise State. The family felt like BYU coaches and then-offensive coordinator Ty Detmer gave them the cold shoulder during a camp for high school prospects in the spring of 2017. In spelling out the pros and cons of her son signing with BYU, she listed one of the cons as, “We hate BYU.”

That all changed after Detmer was fired later that year after the 4-9 season and new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes took a look at BYU’s quarterback room that included rising senior Tanner Mangum (coming off Achilles surgery), Beau Hoge, Kody Wilstead and Joe Critchlow.

Sitake pleaded with Mike Wilson to bring his son down for another visit, according to BYU’s recruiting coordinator at the time, Tevita Ofahengaue. They agreed.

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson celebrates the win over the UCF Knights with athletic director Tom Holmoe after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Wilson is quick to credit Holmoe for the work he did in building a schedule for the Cougars during a pandemic. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Zach said as a four-hour meeting with Sitake was winding down, the coach mentioned something that resonated with the young athlete, a self-described “big family guy” who loves eating his mother’s home-cooked meals.

“He said if I came to BYU I could drive home every Sunday night and eat dinner with my family,” Wilson said. “That meant a lot to me.”

Three years later, Wilson acknowledges that Beck, Roderick, Sitake and Grimes have had huge influences on his development. But the man most responsible is none of the above.

“It’s my dad,” he said. “From Day One, he’s always had a lot of input. He wasn’t a quarterback, but we would just figure stuff out on our own from the very beginning. … It has been a cool process to go through it with him.”

The son says his father became his weightlifting partner, along with his three brothers as they got older. He recalls going shopping with their mother, then staying in the store’s parking lot to throw the football to each other while she finished.

Inside the recruiting changes BYU’s Jasen Ah You has made to turn the tide for the Cougars

Father and son searched the internet together for YouTube videos and other instructional material that emphasized the proper drops and footwork for quarterbacks, how to read defenses, the different arm angles needed to throw a football for maximum efficiency, and what became one of Zach’s specialties at Corner Canyon and then BYU — the back-shoulder fade.

And, of course, are those road trips to Southern California to be tutored by Beck and others at the 3DQB training facility the past few years, where he would arrive for his workouts early so he could watch the tail end of drills done by NFL QBs such as Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, Jared Goff, Matt Ryan, Marcus Mariota and Matthew Stafford.

“It’s been a cool process,” Wilson said, laughing. “Yeah, those are pretty much the narratives, the times and moments (that made a difference).”

But there’s much more to his journey, Wilson acknowledges, layers and layers of steps toward personal growth and improvement driven by an intense, obsessive desire to become better on the football field and in other aspects of his life.

Zach Wilson’s family: ‘He kinda gets obsessive’

His brother Josh Wilson has had a front-row seat to it all, having followed in Zach’s footsteps at Corner Canyon, but as a burly linebacker who got more of his father’s genes in the size department than Zach did. He followed him to BYU where he got quite a bit of playing time his freshman season because of all the blowouts big brother created.

“The thing I would say about Zach, and it is not a bad thing, is that he kinda gets obsessive over things,” Josh said. “That just kind of drives him, even in football. I don’t know if he got that from my mom, or what, but he is just very determined, and he cares a lot. You give him something to do, and he is going to go 110 percent. I don’t think a lot of people are like him in that way. He is always wanting more and more and more.”

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One fairly recent obsession: juggling.

“He taught himself how to juggle, and he mastered it,” his brother said. “He’s an amazing juggler. He worked until he got it.”

Of course, there is method to his apparent madness. He read that juggling helps develop better hand-eye coordination, might help him snatch an errant snap a little easier.

With Zach Wilson, everything comes back to football, roommates Milne and Brayden Cosper — another Bingham High product who has known Wilson since they were 7 — say. When Wilson took a break from film study one night during the season to watch “The Bachelorette” with his pals, “we almost had to check his pulse, see if he was OK,” Cosper joked.

Is Zach Wilson religious?

When he first heard the nickname “Mormon Manziel,” Zach Wilson cringed. He didn’t like it, for two reasons.

Mostly, it was because his game is not patterned after that of former Heisman Trophy winner and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who flamed out in the NFL. Wilson’s favorite QB growing up was Aaron Rodgers, and lately he’s studied film of Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow, the former LSU QB who made huge strides between his junior and senior seasons, much as Wilson did between his second and third seasons in Provo.

Although he considers himself “a Mormon, an LDS Church member, for sure,” and was baptized a member of the church as a youngster, Wilson said he is not “comfortable” being portrayed as a representative of the church in the way that other high-profile Latter-day Saint athletes such as Jimmer Fredette, Taysom Hill and Daniel Sorensen are.

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson throws against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“It is not something I am against, it is just that I didn’t grow up active in the church,” he said. “I’m not that ‘poster boy’ for the church. … I was never really a churchgoer my whole life, just not involved much in it. My family and I hold the same morals and values that the church does, for sure, but I really didn’t know a lot about the teaching and stuff until I got to BYU.”

The New Orleans Saints’ Hill, for instance, served a two-year mission for the church in Australia; Wilson says the thought of leaving for two years never entered his mind.

“I consider myself a really spiritual person,” Wilson said. “I feel like I have always had a good relationship with God in my life. … At BYU, I have gotten into it a little bit more. As everyone at BYU knows, the religion classes are (required) and tough. They’ve helped me strengthen my relationship with God, though.”

Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when he was younger, Wilson acknowledges he’s no “Einstein” in the classroom, but says the time management skills instilled by his parents, his successful grandparents and his mother’s siblings — such as JetBlue founder David Neeleman — have enabled the construction management major to keep his head above water at one of the most rigorous academic institutions in the West.

The self-proclaimed “football junkie” can study film for hours, though.

Beck calls Wilson “one of the fastest-thinkers I’ve been around” and a “whiz at reading and anticipating defenses.”

Grimes and Roderick have said his attention to detail is off the charts, and even an unflattering look at Wilson’s NFL potential — more on that later — says he is “very smart with keen recall.”

From scrawny to sculpted

Tre Ofahengaue, Tevita’s son, runs football camps and showcases in Utah for high school athletes hoping to get noticed by college recruiters. He annually gathers the top prospects and takes them to 7-on-7 tournaments around the country under the umbrella of his company, Level Up Elites.

In the spring of 2016, Mike Wilson approached Tre Ofahengaue at one of BYU’s padded camps wondering if he would take a look at his son, Zach, and consider him for a traveling 7-on-7 team.

Corner Canyon’s Zach Wilson prepares to deliver a pass during Corner Canyon’s homecoming game against Skyridge in Draper, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. | Hans Koepsell, Deseret News

“He looked really scrawny, really thin,” Ofahengaue said. “He was probably 5-10, weighed about 150 pounds.”

Then Ofahengaue watched Wilson throw.

“The second throw, he threw a back-shoulder fade, and I had never seen someone throw so accurately on that back-shoulder throw,” Ofahengaue said. “He just threw it perfectly. To this day I haven’t seen a kid yet who can throw the football as well as Zach Wilson can.”

Level Up Elites added Wilson to a group that included Puka Nacua (Washington) and three who would go on to play in the SEC: Siaki Ika (LSU), Ale Kaho (Alabama) and Cameron Latu (Alabama). The team also featured Bingham High receivers Milne and Cosper, friends of Wilson who would later play a big role in getting the Utes-loving teenager to BYU.

“Zach Wilson, I first met him, I want to say, when he was around 7 years old, playing football against him at a Utah camp,” Milne said before both were part of BYU’s 49-23 win over UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl. “As I have got to know him, he’s just matured in his emotional intelligence, in dealing with the outside noise. Because it is a lot of pressure and a lot to deal with as a quarterback at BYU, stuff like that.”

Ofahengaue’s team became known as the “Pink Outlaws” to honor Elsie Mahe, the daughter of former BYU and NFL great Reno Mahe who died in November 2016 at the age of 3 after a tragic accident in the family’s home.

“We played some of the best teams from California, Florida, Arizona, Washington and everywhere else and we beat them all,” Ofahengaue said. “A lot of that was because of Zach. Even back then, he made plays that you really can’t coach.”

Corner Canyon’s Zach Wilson dribbles during game against Timpview at Timpview High in Provo on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. Basketball, not football, was originally Wilson’s sport of choice. He played it until setting it aside prior to his senior season. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Ofahengaue says he can’t take credit for Wilson’s development — “I get my play calls off (the video game) Madden,” he says — but he is proud of the fact he helped convince Wilson to give up basketball and focus entirely on football the summer before his senior year.

The turn to football full time was a pivotal moment in Wilson’s development as a future NFL quarterback, BYU coaches said. Although Roderick and others encourage young athletes to play a variety of sports growing up, they say Wilson’s total commitment to learning the most difficult position to play in all of sports contributed greatly to his success at BYU.

It wasn’t easy convincing him, Ofahengaue said. Wilson loves basketball, started for Corner Canyon’s varsity team as a junior and can easily dunk a basketball with either hand.

As a youngster, he played in hundreds of Junior Jazz games and AAU circuit games. He idolized Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. He probably could have played hoops at the junior college or NAIA level, coaches say.

“He’s just a terrific athlete, pretty special in that regard,” said Kjar, who arrived at Corner Canyon before Wilson’s senior year.

“Between his junior and senior year, he added a lot of weight and strength, partly because it is hard to put on weight when you are playing basketball,” Ofahengaue said. “By the time his senior year rolled around, he was a good 200 pounds.”

And scrawny no more.

Working with John Beck

Beck, the co-owner and quarterbacks instructor at 3DQB along with Dr. Tom House, Adam Dedeaux and former ASU QB Taylor Kelly, worked with Wilson in Southern California a couple times a year before Wilson’s freshman and sophomore seasons at BYU, but only for a couple days per visit.

In 2020, however, Wilson says he “probably drove out there five or six times, probably flew out there five or six times.” He stayed for six weeks during one trip last spring, living at the home of BYU freshman tight end Isaac Rex in San Clemente.

“Nobody took advantage of the pandemic more than that dude did. When everything was shut down at BYU last spring, Zach Wilson was out here, grinding. … The way we were able to push him was very different from past years.” — John Beck

“Nobody took advantage of the pandemic more than that dude did,” Beck said. “When everything was shut down at BYU last spring, Zach Wilson was out here, grinding. … The way we were able to push him was very different from past years.”

Beck said when BYU coaches told Wilson he couldn’t be around them or his teammates to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he would call and say, “I’ve got time here, or I’ve got time there, I am going to come to California.”

Wilson was motivated, Beck said, by his lackluster performances in the Cougars’ final two games of the 2019 season — losses to San Diego State and Hawaii — and public statements from BYU offensive coaches that the starting quarterback position was “wide open” heading into spring camp, which was eventually canceled after six practices.

It helped that Rex and then-incoming freshman receiver Kody Epps were back in Southern California as well, providing Wilson with willing receivers eager to improve their own games.

Obviously, the publicity that 3DQB has received from the constant chatter on ESPN broadcasts about Wilson’s visits has been priceless, Beck said, noting that a lot of new clients are coming from the state of Utah. For instance, Jaxson Dart, the Corner Canyon product who recently signed with USC, has also been training at 3DQB the past few years.

As for Wilson’s development, Beck said he’s always been a great athlete who could throw the ball well. What made the difference?

“What Zach was able to do this past offseason was take his ability to throw and his high athleticism, tie them together and make difficult throws look easy,” Beck said.

One day last summer, Beck, Dedeaux and Kelly were watching Wilson’s footwork and hip turns on throws when the right-hander was running to his left and the thought hit them all at about the same time.

“Zach has hit another level,” Beck said to his business partners, who nodded their heads in unison. “It is time to move him up a level.”

Having worked with star NFL quarterbacks, the 3DQB instructors saw the same arm talent, hip rotation, decision-making prowess, arm angles and resourcefulness from Wilson they were accustomed to seeing from greats like Brees, Ryan and Stafford.

Having worked with Wilson for several years, Beck understood the “arm fatigue” his Cougar client was experiencing after his freshman season (2018) and was onboard with him having shoulder surgery in January 2019. He knew Wilson was not completely healed from the surgery before the 2019 season began, and noticed the “zip” was gone from some of his throws.

Last summer, Wilson could make all the throws again, the 3DQB partners said. The decision to have surgery — and put his readiness level for the 2019 season in jeopardy — had paid off. A fractured thumb sustained in the fifth game that season caused Wilson to miss key games.

“It was apparent that it was time to move him up a level,” Beck said. “So it was like Zach entered, in our workouts, the realm that the NFL guys are in. It was like, ‘Let’s start pushing him now, like how we pushed the NFL guys.’ He just took that and ran with it.”

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson calls a play in the huddle as BYU and Boise State play a college football game at Albertsons Stadium in Boise on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

A different kind of drive

Wilson’s drives to Southern California were behind the wheel of a “nothing special” 2016 Mazda6 sedan. And those miles weren’t wasted time. He listened to music, podcasts and a lot of audio books, including Steve Young’s memoir, “QB: My Life Behind the Spiral.” He listened to the entire Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance” on one particular trip, “because it was mostly just people talking so you didn’t have to watch it.”

Former BYU and NFL great Young’s battles with pregame anxiety resonated with Wilson, he said, as well as his thoughts on how to cooperate with and encourage teammates involved in starting quarterback battles.

“And there are not a lot of people out there who know what it is like to be the quarterback at BYU, what that pressure is like,” Wilson said. “Steve Young does.”

His biggest takeaway from the Jordan documentary?

“Mental toughness,” Wilson said, “and the way he took fuel from getting (disrespected).”

His favorite genre of music is R&B, his favorite artists Chris Brown, Drake and Usher.

“I listened to a lot of those guys, and I like country music as well, too,” he said.

Other times, he would chat on his cellphone with his longtime girlfriend, Abbey Gile of Sandy, a Utah Valley University student.

Wilson says he’s never had a speeding ticket, thanks to a radar detector and “just common sense.” He takes the radar detector down from his windshield and doesn’t use it when he enters Nevada because they aren’t legal there, he said.

Countering anonymous criticism

Amy Rex, mother of freshman All-America tight end Isaac Rex and wife of former BYU All-America tight end Byron Rex, was scrolling through Twitter on Christmas Eve when she “honestly (became) sick to my stomach that people would slander Zach’s name like this” after reading an anonymous comment published by the website WalterFootball.com and posted to Twitter by @WestCoastFB.

“Wilson has character concerns, rich kid who is an entitled brat — uncle owns Jet Blue (sic) — parents are a pain, not a leader, selfish, and he’s a know-it-all. ... His positives are that he’s super competitive, not (likely) to get scared and won’t back down, extremely confident, very smart with keen real and teammates will play for him,” was the comment from who the site said was a “director of college scouting from an NFC team that is in the market for a new quarterback.”

Amy Rex told the Deseret News that Wilson stayed at their home during all his training sessions with Beck and 3DQB and the negative descriptions were not even close to being accurate.

“He is the least-entitled, least-pretentious, most humble, hard-working kid I’ve ever met,” Amy Rex said. “He would literally show up at our house with gas station food — Top Ramen, peanut butter, a loaf of bread and instant oatmeal, because he was worried about being a ‘burden’ while he was at my house.”

She insisted that Wilson eat her famous Kalua pork dishes and protein pancakes. Last Mother’s Day, Wilson worked all day for DoorDash, delivering food in Anaheim to earn the money needed to pay for his training sessions.

“Zach is one of the most polite and respectful kids I have ever met. He takes no days off. I witnessed his work ethic and willingness to personally sacrifice to improve his game firsthand. We will miss having him in our home but feel blessed and grateful for the example he set for my sons.” — Amy Rex

“Zach is one of the most polite and respectful kids I have ever met,” she said. “He takes no days off. I witnessed his work ethic and willingness to personally sacrifice to improve his game firsthand. We will miss having him in our home but feel blessed and grateful for the example he set for my sons.”

Wilson ready to take the next step to the NFL

Whenever Zach Wilson talks about the success he’s attained in 2020 — one of the greatest single seasons for a quarterback in BYU football history — he thanks BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and the school’s administration for making the season happen after the original schedule was wiped out by opponent cancellations due to COVID-19.

“None of this happens for us if we don’t have games to play,” Wilson said. “When I look back at how we got here, how far we’ve come, that’s what will probably stick out the most — that we were even able to play.”

Also not lost on Wilson is the fact that BYU’s independent status — a concern for him and his family three years ago when he was “weighing all those pros and cons” — turned out to be a blessing in disguise his junior season.

“Pretty ironic,” he admits.

The way the schedule was rebuilt, and the opportunities to perform on national television, often as the only game on in that particular time slot (as was the Navy game that got the ball rolling) served as another key moment in Wilson’s rise to prominence on NFL draft boards.

Did he see it coming?

Wilson says that when the season started, he was so thrilled to be playing games that the thought that this could be his final season in Provo never entered his mind. 

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson dives for additional yards after catching a pass against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“I always kinda felt like I would get a shot at the NFL at some point in my career, but not this soon,” he said. “Yeah, I’m kinda surprised it came together this fast.”

After the Cougars crushed Navy, Troy and Louisiana Tech, he started “getting these big agencies calling, and typically they only represent some of the bigger guys, so when they started calling me it kinda became evident” that he was on the NFL’s radar, he said.

“I really don’t get into it a lot, but when the Mel Kiper thing came out, that I was in his top five, that seemed noteworthy. That was the first time I was like, ‘OK, I got to keep getting better and keep improving each and every week, and play well.’ I was kind of in shock, to hear my name up there.” — Zach Wilson

Only then did he begin thinking he might not be around next year, he said.

A few days after BYU beat Louisiana Tech 45-14 and Wilson completed 24 of 26 passes for 325 yards and two TDs on Oct. 2, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. named him the fifth-best QB prospect in the 2021 draft, behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Florida’s Kyle Trask.

“Wilson is a guy you better get to know,” Kiper wrote.

Since then, Wilson has risen as high as No. 2, behind only Lawrence, in some mock drafts.

“I really don’t get into it a lot, but when the Mel Kiper thing came out, that I was in his top five, that seemed noteworthy,” Wilson said. “That was the first time I was like, ‘OK, I got to keep getting better and keep improving each and every week, and play well.’ I was kind of in shock, to hear my name up there.”

Having been interviewed more than 100 times the past three years, Wilson has learned to choose his words carefully. He starts a lot of answers out with the phrase: “It’s hard to say.” So he’s not about to name an NFL team, coach or system in which he would prefer.

“For me, it will be all about looking for the best situation,” he said.

Just like 14 years ago, when Justin Mobley was on the other side of the hitting line.