Whether it’s the comparisons that the BYU product received during the draft process or the part that the future Hall of Fame QB played in teaching the rookie the game all throughout his childhood — even if he didn’t know it.
“I’ve obviously been a big Aaron Rodgers fan since I was young,” Wilson told WFAN radio hosts Craig Carton and Evan Roberts during an interview after he was drafted by the franchise. “Those guys are just exciting to watch and they just have a lot of skill, and the way that they do things can be different sometimes and I think that’s what makes them special.”
The Utah native echoed that sentiment during his post-practice press conference on August 18 when asked if Rodgers was his favorite player. Wilson responded: “Yeah, 100%. He’s always been somebody I’ve definitely modeled my game after, you know? I’ve tried to always copy what he’s been doing because he’s done it the right way for such a long time.”
The media then asked if he owned a number 12 jersey growing up. “I didn’t, no, I was — I wouldn’t necessarily say a Green Bay fan — but I was just a Rodgers fan, he was always the game I always wanted to watch on Sundays. I always made sure I was watching his full games, what he was doing, but I didn’t have a jersey,” the Jets signal-caller clarified.
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Class Is in Session
The reigning Most Valuable Player has won that award three times in his career, as well as three All-Pro honors, nine Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl. Over 13 seasons as the Green Bay starting quarterback, Rodgers holds an outstanding record of 126-63-1, in which he’s thrown for over 50,000 yards and 400-plus touchdowns.
“There on opposite fields, so I don’t know how much [Wilson’s] actually going to watch [Rodgers] unless he turns on the practice tape — which I think he will do — to see how he plays against our defense and to see what it looks like with our defense, which I think is valuable no matter what,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh told reporters ahead of the initial practice on Wednesday, August 18.
Little did the Jets HC realize that Wilson would chat up the veteran on the sidelines, and it sounded like he picked up a ton.
“Yeah he’s a cool guy,” the rookie admitted, “I’ve talked to him before in the past and he’s got a lot of knowledge, he’s a smart dude, he knows what’s going on out there so it’s cool just to kind of ask him about footwork, what’s going on on the field, and what he’s seeing. If I could spend more time with him and just keep asking questions, I would.”
Wilson continued: “I want to do what he’s doing but when you got 16 years of experience and the checks and calls he’s making on the field… there’s not many guys I would say in the league that can do what he’s doing out there as far as just seeing what’s going on [and] changing plays, but I’d say the biggest thing I picked up was just the two-minute drill, just how calm and collected he is. You know it’s kind of like he’s just out there messing around playing backyard football, he’s having a good time and he makes it work.”
The rookie explained that Rodgers had called him during his contract negotiations to talk about “life and football.” As for which elite trait he’d most like to emulate, Wilson had a mature answer.
“That’s tough… obviously the way he throws the ball is amazing but I wouldn’t say that’s something you necessarily need to be as successful as he is, I would just say the way he understands the game,” the Jets QB replied.
The BYU star has been touted for his work ethic and cerebral ability as an “offensive coordinator” on the field, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he was anxious to review Rodgers’ practice tape.
“They’re definitely a Super Bowl caliber team,” he said, “I will [watch his film] because I’ve played against our defense for some time now and I would just love to see the things he’s working and looking at, what calls they’re doing, just to kind of pick up footwork [and] whatever [I need to].”
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Rodgers’ Impressions of Wilson, Saleh
First of all, the Packers great definitely provides a hearty and healthy interview so do check this out if you’re a fan of the quarterback’s resume. Right at the start though, he spoke about Wilson.
“Zach’s a good kid,” Rodgers began, “it’s fun to talk to him, I got to see him various times throughout the offseason.”
Later he detailed some of the wisdom he bestowed on the rookie, saying; “because of some of the similarities in offenses I wanted to hear, kind of the play calls, just to see what kind of carryover there was and also I wanted to talk to Mike [LaFleur] and Zach about the operation a little bit. Obviously I’ve been around a long time and called my own two-minute [drill] for a number of years… so I wanted to give them a couple of things to maybe think about on their own [being that] he’s a first-time coordinator and he’s a first-time starter. There [are] just some things in the operation that I felt like I could help with.”
Rodgers also talked about Saleh and Mike LaFleur: “It’s good having these guys in, I’ve known Coach Saleh for a while, played against him obviously a number of times and him and Matt [LaFleur] are close, the offensive coordinator I think is close with Matt as well,” the gunslinger joked.
Finally, the long-time star cleared the air on his love-hate relationship with joint-practices, which is mostly the latter. “Look, I’ve never been a huge fan of joint practices, but I think I’ve said as well there’s merit to certain aspects of it. It is nice having this [4-3] defense, which has been going around the league now a little bit more, in this week. It’s also nice, the coaching connections with Robert [Saleh] and Mike [LaFleur] and then so many of our coaches know other coaches on their staff, so that part’s nice.”
Wilson Has ‘Veteran Mindset’
One other note from Rodgers, Jets guard Greg Van Roten is “quite the dancer.”
Speaking of ‘GVR,’ he actually complemented Wilson earlier this week on “his approach.” The O-Lineman elaborated, “he’s very consistent in how he approaches things, how he studies, and he’s very humble when it comes to [making mistakes]… he has a very experienced and veteran mindset for someone as young as he is.”
Coach Saleh has noticed these characteristics as well; “[Wilson] is just curious about everything, and so he’s got all these questions about what he sees on tape… to me he’s so far ahead with how he sees the game.”
This morning on August 19, the Jets HC even went as far as to say that Wilson has been deliberately forcing himself to stay inside the pocket more in training camp, to improve his reads and progressions.
“We’re all technically at the same level now,” remarked Wilson, “we’re all in the NFL… but it’s still a great tool for us just to be able to learn from him and see what he’s doing.”