There’s happy news for those recruits who have signed with college programs here in Utah and all around the country, news for those players who do not have four or five stars next to their names.
That news emerges from Zach Wilson, and from others, too. A whole bunch of others, such as many of the starters in Sunday’s Super Bowl. And, historically, thousands more.
They were not at the top of recruiting lists coming out of high school. And yet, they are where they are now or were where they ended up.
Wilson is a striking example. Arriving at BYU out of Corner Canyon High School in 2018, he was a three-star recruit, ranked 38th among pro-style QBs that year, and ranked 900-and-something-th overall on national lists.
That put him well behind future Utah quarterbacks Jack Tuttle and Cameron Rising, each of whom were ranked among the top 11, and a whole lot of quarterbacks you’ve not heard of since. Makes you wonder whatever happened to those guys.
What we do know is that none of them, other than Trevor Lawrence — who was ranked No. 1 — will be a top selection in the coming NFL Draft. Justin Fields, who was highly ranked as a dual-threat quarterback, will also go high.
While Wilson likely will stand in front of all but Lawrence in April.
And according to Joe Theismann, the former NFL MVP quarterback, he even would take Wilson over Lawrence. He told CBS sports the following:
“I just love the way [he] throws the football. It is hard to teach. We have seen people learn to perfect it a little bit. He has all the skills — he has a live arm, he has a strong arm, he can put touch on it, he can gun it. He is 6-3, he is not a small guy. He moves around with great athleticism. I think, to me, watching him play quarterback, he looks really ready … I just think coming into this particular draft, Zach checks all the boxes for me. Personally, my choice, my guy.”
Wilson was BYU’s choice back then, after others sniffed at him, and now he’s Theismann’s pick — and perhaps the Jets’ choice at No. 2 — to succeed in the NFL and fill up his bank accounts when he signs his rookie deal. Work thereafter will remain for him to do.
Stories like Wilson’s are not uncommon, and they are probably told again and again to high school kids who want to believe they are better than what some recruiters relegate them to be.
Whoever came up with the star system for prep players might have served a purpose on the macro level, as is evident at a program such as Alabama’s, which rakes in four- and five-star guys on the reg and reveals that advantage on the field. Sometimes those star assignments are wrong, often they are right. But on the micro level, they do not necessarily apply.
Take, for instance, the starters in this year’s Super Bowl.
Patrick Mahomes was just a three-star recruit. He was the 398th-ranked overall recruit coming out of high school. Nine other Kansas City Chiefs starters were three-star guys, including BYU’s Daniel Sorensen.
Tight end Travis Kelce was a two star, ranking as the 1,583rd prep player when he was recruited. Three other Chiefs were assigned two stars. Four of them weren’t ranked at all, for one reason or another.
Tampa Bay has more four- and five-star starters, but three of them were three-star recruits, with one two-star player, and seven starters, including Tom Brady, who were unranked. Brady came through before the star ratings were made public, but considering he was a sixth-round draft pick, even the pro scouts missed on him.
Super Bowls in previous years had more three-stars-and-lower starters than they had blue-chip recruits, which may be a numbers game considering so few players get those lofty ratings.
Bottom line, though, the message that should ring clear to young athletes advancing into college programs is to ignore the number of stars next to their names. That goes for so-called top recruits and for the lessers. Early-evidenced talent has its place, and it can be significant, but it’s only the first chapter in a book that has alternate endings. A book that can be written with more exactness by the guys willing to work.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.