Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets scrambles against...

Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets scrambles against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Zach Wilson was in elementary school when he learned that he shared a birthday with a famous professional athlete: Tom Brady.

Both were born on Aug. 3, Brady in 1977 and Wilson in 1999. Wilson said he always thought that was "pretty cool," but he never could have imagined that one day he would play against Brady.

On Sunday, Wilson, 22, will face off against Brady, 44, at MetLife Stadium. The 22-year age gap is the longest between two starting quarterbacks since 1950.

"I was born in 1999 and his first year in the NFL was in [2000]," Wilson said during a Zoom call Thursday. "It’s pretty crazy to think about. My entire life I’ve known him, he’s been in the NFL.

"Just knowing the fact that he’s still going and I’m able to play against him is really cool. I’ve obviously watched him my whole life. It’s going to be exciting that the NFL works like that."

Everyone marvels at Brady’s longevity, and more so that he’s still playing at an elite level.

He leads the reigning Super Bowl champion Bucs (11-4) into MetLife ranking first in passing yards (4,580), completions (422) and touchdowns (37).

"He has an amazing work ethic," Wilson said. "I think it’s probably the way he approaches the game. He does it the right way. He makes sure he’s studying the way he should.

"I think he just has a relentless mindset to be the best. I think that’s what he’s competing for right now. It’s just how long can he keep going and doing it at the highest level? It’s really cool to see."

The legend of Tom Brady essentially began against the Jets when Mo Lewis knocked Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe out of the game on Sept. 23, 2001. Brady stepped in, and the rest is history.

He dominated the Jets for 19 years, led the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles and won his seventh last year with the Bucs.

"He is undoubtedly the best quarterback that’s ever played this game for so many reasons," Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said.

Ulbrich was in Brady’s 2000 draft class; the linebacker was taken 86th by the 49ers. His career ended in 2009. Brady famously was selected 199th, and he’s still going.

"My claim to fame is still that I was drafted before him," Ulbrich said. "That’s my one thing I’ve done better than him."

The Jets (4-11) have been searching for a franchise quarterback to do for them what Brady did for New England, and they hope they have him in Wilson.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft, Wilson has had many rough moments this season. He seems to be settling in and has looked more comfortable running the offense and leading the Jets.

Wilson has thrown only seven touchdown passes and has 11 interceptions, but he’s shown definite improvement since returning from a four-game absence with a knee injury. The Jets have gone 2-3 and Wilson has thrown three touchdown passes, rushed for four touchdowns and been intercepted only twice. He rushed for 91 yards on four carries last week, including a 52-yard TD.

"Zach’s decision-making has been fantastic," Robert Saleh said. "He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there. He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him continue to grow."

The Jets believe that as Wilson gets more time in the offense and has the core around him improve, he will take a big leap next season. Right now, they just want him to continue to build on what he’s done lately.

Wilson is excited about being on the same field as Brady but is very even-keeled and focused on making sure he continues to improve. He’s said he’s not making Sunday’s game a measuring stick for him, but he wouldn’t mind being able to say he beat a team quarterbacked by Brady.

"We’re trying to go for the win," Wilson said. "As far as me versus him, that’s the last thing I’m thinking about. It’s our offense against their defense.

"Of course, it would be awesome to say that we beat the Bucs. To be able to play against Tom Brady and to beat those guys, of course that’s the goal. But it’s definitely not me against him."

About the only thing the two quarterbacks in Sunday’s Bucs-Jets game have in common is the date on the calendar when they were born.


Aug. 3, 1977BIRTH DATE Aug. 3, 1999


241-73REG. SEASON W-L3-8



11,230 ATTEMPTS330

64.1 COMP. PCT56.7




97.4QB RATING67.9

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