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In homage to draft spot, Zach Wilson hopes to wear No. 2 with Jets

Jets first-round draft pick Zach Wilson works out

Jets first-round draft pick Zach Wilson works out during NFL football rookie camp, Friday, May 7, 2021, in Florham Park, N.J. Credit: AP/Bill Kostroun

The hope, at least for the Jets and their fans, is that Zach Wilson will one day be spoken in the same breath as Derek Jeter - iconic status, multiple championships, a public record devoid of blemishes.

Surely, in May of 2021, that reality is years away – decades, perhaps. But let the Jeter comparisons start here – jersey number.

Although Wilson isn’t completely locked in yet – and no doubt NFL jersey makers are taking note – he thinks he’ll wear number 2, partly as a homage to his draft position.

"I like any single digit numbers and I think I think it's kind of cool that I was the second pick," Wilson said Saturday, the second day of rookie mini-camp. "I think that's kind of a cool reason to be able to switch it up. There really wasn’t really too much thought behind it. I just think it’s a cool number."

Wilson, who wore number 1 and 11 at BYU, said it was fun to get on the field Friday. A rookie’s first practice in the NFL is one he’ll never forget.

"It was exciting, a lot of thinking," Wilson said. "Way more thinking than you typically want to do in football, but that's a day one kind of thing."

Like most rookies, Wilson spoke of the differences between a college and NFL offense.

"The terminology is completely different," he said. "Football is really like learning a language. You’ve got to go in there, work at it every single day, put the words together, be able to think of them quick and know what's going on."

Another rookie, head coach Robert Saleh, liked what he saw from Wilson’s first practice.

"He did a really nice job," Saleh said. "The ball was in and out of his hands crisp. He was in rhythm, he was on time. Players were running the right routes and the ball was barely on the ground. So, it was a very good first day for him. Now, he’s just got to stack it up and get better every day."

So far, Wilson has meshed with offense coordinator Mike LaFleur, who is charged with turning the BYU startup into a star.

"The offense is great, I have no complaints," Wilson said. "I think he's a great guy and super intelligent. I can just tell in the film room… We're going over situations and he’ll randomly, just all of a sudden, spit out, ‘Oh yeah on this play this, this and this happened.’ And this was three years ago. He's got great recall, a great memory."

At 34, LeFleur is only 13 years older than Wilson – a relatively small age difference for a coordinator and a rookie quarterback.

"I think it's I think it's cool that he’s a younger guy," Wilson said. "We get to mesh together more, can joke around about stuff. [Passing game coordinator Greg Knapp] is an older dude and he's just as easy to get along with. Both those guys are awesome to work with and I have a good time in the quarterback room."

In terms of officially earning the starting spot – something that is likely considering the other two quarterbacks currently on the roster are James Morgan and Mike White – Wilson wasn’t taking anything for granted.

"Obviously that's important, but that's not my focus right now," he said. "My focus is to learn the offense, keep getting better every single day, and do what I can with the guys around me. I think the rest takes care of itself."

Wilson continued: "In this position, the coaches want to play the best player, and that that position has got to be earned. I’ve got to go in there and I’ve got to make sure I do what I'm supposed to do."

Wilson, who reached out to a number of teammates even before rookie camp started, said he would like to get together with receivers for throwing sessions before training camp begins in July.

"I'm willing to sacrifice wherever I'm at to make sure I can get with those guys because that's important," he said. "We'll figure it out as more details come across as far as how OTAs happen and getting guys around. That's definitely a priority, so we'll make it work."

Notes and Quotes: Saleh voiced support for safety Marcus Maye, who the Jets placed the franchise tag on and have until July 15 to work out a new deal with. General manager Joe Douglas has expressed a desire to keep Maye long term. Saleh said he hopes a deal ‘happens soon.’

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for what they’re going through. I think these kids have earned the right to ask for whatever they can, especially when they do things the right way like he has," Saleh said. "Joe and his staff are working relentlessly to get something done. We go with it and we support him all around the organization."

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