Opposing high school coaches on New York Jets' Zach Wilson: 'He can really sling it down the field'

Zach Wilson, a New York Jets quarterback, once transported a linebacker in an ambulance. People could hear them whistling as he made back-shoulder throws of such depth that they were almost heard. He was a great high school player and led Corner Canyon to the Utah State 5A semifinals in 2017.His feats in the beautiful communities around Salt Lake City did not spark any excitement about his future stardom. Wilson was a man many people didn't know existed.ESPN interviewed five opposing coaches at Corner Canyon in Draper to find out their thoughts on Wilson's senior year. Some were positive, some eloquent, about Wilson's impact on them on the field. They watched his BYU career and were proud to see him being selected as the No. The Jets selected him No. 2 overall this April.Who knew? They didn't. They didn't.Wilson was not on the national radar in a class that featured fellow quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (and Justin Fields), both 2021 first round picks. Wilson was the No. He was the No. 70 quarterback prospect in the nation and No. According to 247 Sports, he is the No. 2 quarterback prospect in the country and No. The story of how he became an NFL draft selection is one of determination and how sometimes the recruiting machine fails to find the late bloomers.Wilson was known for his competitiveness and dual-threat personality before he became a franchise savior in Gotham. Two games were missed by Wilson because of an ankle injury at Corner Canyon. However, he rushed for 719 yards and eight touchdowns to help the Chargers 11-1. His passing stats were not as impressive as video-game numbers, with 170-for-297 and 2,976 yards. He also had 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and was 170-for-297.Utah is well-known for producing linemen and not skill players. According to ESPN data, five NFL quarterbacks have been born in Utah's high schools during the Super Bowl era. These were ex-Jet Luke Falk and Bruce Hardy, Jim McMahon and Scott Mitchell, as well as Gifford Nielsen.Wilson is a trendsetter in a way that no one expected, or at least that's what the opposing coaches claimed.Early Wilson reports: "You could see the potential."Ryan Bullett, Brighton High (Cottonwood Heights in Utah): "When Wilson was only a sophomore, we went to Corner Canyon in summer to scrimmage the girls in 7-on-7. We knew what was going to happen. The potential was obvious then."Jon Lehman (Salt Lake City),: "He has a really elastic arm. He can throw it far downfield with great arm strength and at odd angles. He was able to do that back then. He could keep two men around him and still get the ball 50 yards downfield.Cary Whittingham (Provo, Utah),: "He had to learn how to manage that advertising-libbing stuff early in his career. He was a bit too ambitious. He made too many things happen, and those are the fatal mistakes. His gears eventually started to shift. He was coached. He was able to fix that and become a confident quarterback.Courtesy Brody BensonBrody Benson (Highland, Salt Lake City): "Very composed within the pocket. He was very efficient in his progressions. He isn't one of those quarterbacks that would lock down his No. He's not one of those quarterbacks who would lock on his No. 1 receiver and telegraph every play.Jeremy Hill (Orem, Utah): I watched him at the Pylon Passing League [a 7-on-7 contest] in Las Vegas. These games are not permitted for coaches, so I was just watching my players from the sidelines. He threw deep balls, and you could hear the sound at the end. I've never seen high school students throw such a deep ball.Blair Angulo (247 Sports) West Region analyst: "The Nick Sabans and the Dabo Swinneys, Ryan Days of the World, they're trying find the next big thing for freshmen or sophomores. You get overlooked if you aren't at the right level. This is what Zach experienced. His curve was not on the same timeline as the one you see at the prep level for the quarterback position.Corner Canyon Senior Year: "Doing what he does"Wilson's team won a 9-0 regular league season. Their most intense game was against Orem, which they won 27-14. Corner Canyon won two playoff matches, but was defeated by Skyridge in the state semifinals, where it lost 34 to 33.Lehman: The opening drive of the game was rethought a bit by us. Wilson threw a back shoulder ball at 30 yards, which was almost a first-level throw. Although he made many of these throws at BYU it is not something that high schoolers would make often. "I looked at the guys and said, "If we give him that opportunity, he's going make that throw all day. And we're in tough condition." (Wilson passed for 341 yard in the state semifinal loss.@jamespalmer6_ deserves the National Football Foundation's Scholar-Leader Award. James is one my best teammates and competitors. pic.twitter.com/QmNs5NgIHl Jon Lehman, @JonLehman May 12, 2021Lehman: "I don’t know if this play was uploaded to YouTube but he ran a touchdown [13 yards] that was one the most impressive running plays I’ve ever seen in high school. It was quite a scramble. He made some guys miss, he walked tightrope down the sideline, and he ended on the pylon. It was a truly impressive play. He does what he does."Benson, describing a 49-yard touchdown that traveled 55 air miles in quarterfinals: "He got knocked out as soon as he threw it, and I recall him looking through the pile to see if it was over. He didn't care about his shots, he was more concerned about his own health. He wanted to make sure the ball hit the target. (Corner Canyon defeated Highland 37-0.Hill: Hill said that he was under a lot pressure -- seven sacks I believe -- and that we did pick him up a few times. But he never became flustered. "That kid is so tough, I think.Whittingham: It was windy, wet and cold. It was very rainy. They were going to pass despite the fact that it was not conducive for the passing game. They came out and hit us hard and fast. (Wilson ran for 147 yards and passed for 155 yards in a 44-7 victory against Timpview.Bullett: Bullett said that the first play of the game was when he threw the 9-route down the sideline. It was perfect. The guy was right in front of me. The DB returned to the sideline after scoring a touchdown. I told him that he played so well. "The ball was thrown to places you couldn't reach it.Ryan BullettBullett: He ran in on a quarterback draw right after we got down to 21. Our children were excited, thinking that they would get a shot on him. He just ran past them. He was never even dragged."Whittingham: Let me tell you a story. [Wilson] is flushed from the pocket and starts running. Our middle linebacker steps in to help him and instead of trying to dodge him, he runs over our middle linebacker. The middle linebacker suffered a serious injury and was left on the field for quite some time. He was then taken to the hospital in an ambulance. He was not injured, but he was shocked! The quarterback literally destroyed him. "Game over," I thought at that moment.Bullett: He injured his ankle during our game in the third quarter. He was dragged a bit sideways and eventually he got up limping. Boise State was there to help him. He was there to commit, and Boise State men were watching him from the sidelines. They were like, "Uh-oh." He was up big, but they were competitors and he wanted to show them how great he was. (Wilson did not return to the 52-13 victory over Brighton.Courtesy Jeremy HillHill: "He is not the biggest child, and that was the one thing that I took away from our games: I thought that he might get a little bit banged up, and that's exactly what happened."Benson: "We knew that he would be limited in the pocket due to the ankle. We thought we'd have good chances to reach him and get hits on his ankle. The thing that impressed me most was how the kid bounced up. He was clearly playing with pain but he kept his composure."Bullett: "Nobody stopped her the entire year." He was stopped by an ankle injury. That was it.Wilson defies all expectationsWilson decided to commit to BYU after his senior season. Although it was big news in Utah and the rest of the country, there weren't many ripples as he wasn’t considered a top recruiter by the top recruitment services. According to 247 Sports who ranked Penei Sewell, the future Detroit Lions first round pick, as the best prospect in Utah prior to the 2021 draft, he was only the thirteenth overall. Wilson was drafted as the Jets' highest-drafted quarterback less than four years after his last high school game. He will soon sign a $35 Million contract that is fully guaranteed.Benson: "At that time, I thought that he'd do an excellent job at Boise, based upon the type of athletes down there. To be completely honest, I wasn't sure he would make it to the NFL. He exceeded all my expectations.Whittingham, a former BYU linebacker, and 1987 Cincinnati Bengals draft selection: "When we're talking about a potential first-round NFL player, you have to imagine when you're playing him as the most dominant man on the field, just like a man who throws kids around. His quarterback play was something I had never imagined. Although I knew he was a good quarterback, who would have thought he'd be a first-rounder. It would be hard to believe you were actually watching Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers quarterback.Happy Birthday to my brother Cary Whittingham, the head coach of the family with highest winning percentage. #ThreePeat pic.twitter.com/xuxJIoZg0L Kyle Whittingham, @UtahCoachWhitt, May 30, 2015.Hill: "I knew that he would do some great stuff on Saturdays. But if you would have told me that he'd be No. Hill: "I honestly wouldn't believe you at the time that he would be the No. 2 overall pick in a few years.Bullett: You knew that he was a great athlete from the moment you played against him. His arm developed naturally and continued to develop."Lehman: "Zach wasn't a special kid. He was tall and stout (6-foot-2), but he wasn't a 22-year old playing against 17-yearolds. He was very talented, even though I didn't expect him to be there in the first round.Angulo: "We are beginning to see a shift in the state Utah. We are starting to see more emphasis on offseason football in Utah. Wide receivers and quarterbacks are playing in 7-on-7 tournaments, and they're participating in camps just like Zach. He set the standard for how skill position players can succeed in Utah.Benson: "I was just watching the draft to see where he went. Especially with all the publicity that he was getting before the draft. I will be rooting for the kid from my hometown. As a coach, I have been fortunate to see a few of my kids play in the NFL.Bullett: "Everyone in Utah was excited."Lehman: It's affirmation for all of the hard work the children put in. He comes from a family of good people. You want to see people succeed."Benson: "He is a grounded child. He won't let the glamour and lights get to him, I think. He is a strong-willed kid and will work hard. He should work hard for every opportunity that comes his way.