This was the dream night when Zach Wilson ascended to the New York Jets throne, when the green-and-white carpet was rolled out for him, when the honeymoon between Baby Face franchise quarterback and hyperventilating fan base began for however long it will last.
He is the Baby Face of the franchise because there is magic in his right arm, because there were times when he seemed to see the field and the possibilities the way Patrick Mahomes sees them, because there were times when he would throw from an angle that would make Aaron Rodgers smile in acknowledgment, because there were times when a mere flick of the wrist would turn into a 50-yard dime.
Zach Wilson gets New York City and New Jersey now, all of the Big Apple, gets a chance to make the kind of Jets history that only Joe Namath has been able to make … six months before the moon landing.
So this is one large step for Wilson, who gets that notorious army of long-suffering fans who haven’t even witnessed a playoff game since the 2010 season, and one large leap for Jetskind — as long as he is everything that GM Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh believe he is.
He gets expectations as high as the Empire State Building, gets expectations that he will be everything that Sam Darnold never had a fighting chance to be.
On draft night, the prospect of the big, bright New York stage didn’t scare him.
He is officially on the New York clock.
“I can’t wait to represent that city,” Wilson said.
It is one thing to represent Draper, Utah, where this NFL dream began when he was 7 years old, and Provo, Utah, where he fashioned his meteoritic rise at BYU, and quite another to represent a demanding place that can make your knees knock and your legs turn to jelly.
There was an air of poise and maturity about him on his media Zoom call, a young man comfortable in his own skin, a self-described football junkie who has already done homework on the team and on the town.
“You can go from a losing season one year to a winning season the next, you can flip it real quick,” Wilson said.
The Jets are gambling that Wilson and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s West Coast offense will be a marriage made in heaven.
“If I had to write exactly the offense I’d want to play in, it would be right there,” Wilson said.
Dax Milne has known Baby Face Wilson since they were 8 years old and went on to catch 70 passes for 1,188 yards and eight TDs last season at BYU.
“I’d tell all the Jet fans that they’re in good hands,” Milne told The Post. “That they’re getting a guy that knows the game of football. He knows how to prepare. He knows how to perform. He’s not a guy that has issues off the field, so that won’t be a worry for him, and so I think altogether, he’s the ultimate package, and definitely a guy that can help the Jets organization be on the upside and continue to climb.”
This was not the night to talk about all the empty seasons that have followed Super Bowl III, going on 53 seasons now, not the night to inform Baby Face Wilson that his is the same burden that has weighed down every Jets quarterback since Namath.
“That is a huge burden,” Milne said, “but I think it’s one he’s willing to take on for sure.”
Milne’s grew up in South Jordan, 20 minutes from Wilson, but they were youth league teammates.
“He does well with adapting to new situations,” Milne said. “I think he’ll be able to come in and be able to be friends with the guys around the team. I think he’ll gain respect from the vets and other guys just from just ability and his work ethic.”
Milne, who has drawn comparisons to Rams’ wide receiver Cooper Kupp, was asked to recall the best pass Wilson ever threw to him.
“I have two in my head: One, the best pass he threw to me was against USC [in 2019],” Milne said. “I was in the slot and it was kinda just an inside fade route, and he just put it right over my shoulder and the defender was pretty close to me, but Zach put it in the perfect spot and we ended up scoring on that play. One of the most impressive throws he’s made to me was this past season against Texas State. He threw the ball I think like 70 yards across the field, and I remember just thinking while the ball was in the air like, ‘Holy cow, like there’s no way he threw it this far.’ But it ended up coming down to me and I scored.”
Corey Davis and Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder will like the ball Wilson throws.
“It’s rarely not a perfect spiral, I’ll tell you that,” Milne said. “He got better with understanding when to put touch on the ball and when to rocket it in. It’s definitely an NFL-type throw.”
It figures that Wilson’s favorite quarterback was Rodgers.
“I remember one time he was able to FaceTime with Aaron Rodgers, and he was so excited about that, he wouldn’t shut up about it. It was just funny to watch,” Milne said. “He came in my room and just showed me his screen on his phone and it was Aaron Rodgers.”
There was no joking in Wilson’s huddle.
“Each play he wanted to do everything perfect, whether that was his footwork or making the right audible or making the perfect throw,” Milne said. “And you could see that in his eyes in the huddle. You could tell that he was always mentally ready and ready to compete. That’s the same kid I’ve known for years.”
Milne was a youth league running back. Wilson was a young quarterback.
“I remember he was good at scrambling and making plays that way,” Milne recalled. “Obviously being younger, throwing the ball is more difficult, but he was definitely probably the best quarterback in our little league. No one else could really toss the ball the way he could toss it. I loved competing against him. It was always fun.”
They became friends just before high school when they played on the Shock Wave club basketball team for one season.
“I just remember Zach handling the ball great under pressure, and when we needed a bucket he’d make the bucket and create shots for himself,” Milne said.
They were roommates at BYU.
“He loves to joke around and watch movies when he’s not focused on football, and he loves to play pingpong, that was a big thing that we did living together,” Milne said.
“Tried to get him into Star Wars, he doesn’t even like Star Wars. He did like Harry Potter, I remember he watched all the Harry Potters, so there ya go.”
As far as the cooking, Milne said:
“He tried to brag about his little Hawaiian dish, just rice, ham and eggs, he’d make that, but I would never eat it.”
On this night, Jets fans would have eaten whatever Baby Face Wilson passed to them.