FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Muhammad Wilkerson is riding that emotional wave, enjoying the thrill of getting drafted by a team that plays and trains in his home state.
"It’s just pretty much a dream come true," Wilkerson, the newest member of the Jets, said this afternoon during his introductory press conference. "One of my goals my sophomore year was to be a first- or second-round draft pick. So once my name was called last night, it was just tears of joy, just bringing in that moment with family and friends.
"It’s just crazy, just to be a Jet, to play right here in my hometown of New Jersey. I’m a Jersey kid and its just an awesome feeling."
Wilkerson, who hails from Linden and played at Linden High School, had an inkling the Jets may take him, given he felt he had a productive workout with the team a few weeks ago. The defensive tackle/defensive end out of Temple also worked out for the Giants and Eagles, on top of conducting a few private sessions on campus.
"When I worked out, I really had a great workout and had a good feeling that I possibly could be a Jet," he said. "A few teams were interested in me, and as those picks are starting to come, my name wasn't getting called. And then that 30th pick, I had a feeling that, 'All right, I might get that call.' And when I saw my phone rang, I just knew it." "I feel I’m going to fit well."
And, he said, that's at either position.
"It doesn't really matter, rushing from the inside or outside," Wilkerson said. "Rushing from the outside, I’ve got a one-on-one with the tackle and if I’m rushing inside, the guard might have help with the center or tackle. It really doesn’t matter."
That's why he enjoys moving around.
"I do," he said. "It helps me out because I’m versatile. So, it may cause problems for somebody on the opposite team."
Wilkerson already has some questioning if he can get it done at this level. Temple hails from the Mid-American Conference, and since it's not a BCS school and doesn't play the toughest of competition, some are wondering if the leap may be too great for Wilkerson to make an impact.
But after drafting him Thursday, Rex Ryan pointed to Wilkerson's game against then-No. 23 Penn State in late September, when he posted nine tackles and a fumble recovery.
"I think I played well," Wilkerson said. " I helped my team out a lot and made plays when we needed it. At the end of the day, I felt I needed to play well that game because as you guys know, there’s talk that coming from the MAC, the talent level is not great.
"So why just not go out there and play against Penn State, which is in the Big 10, and dominate them?"
Wilkerson had a little mission for later tonight when he gets back home. His family is loaded with Giants fans, and perhaps no one in the clan is a bigger fan of the other team in town more than his older brother Abdul, who has season tickets.
So he admitted that it's time to switch the family allegiance.
"Yeah, that’s going to have to change," he said. "Everybody is going to be a Jets fan now." Including Abdul. "I know when I go home," Wilkerson said, "I’m going to hand him that hat and he better put it on."