Provo • In the opening play of the BYU-Western Kentucky game last Saturday, Zach Wilson connected with Dax Milne on a 19-yard reception. It was a nice, quick completion to get things started for the Cougars. It also was a perfect illustration of the relationship between Wilson and Milne.
Well, at least what it’s become.
There was a moment, long before the two became roommates and started watching The Bachelorette together, that Milne couldn’t stand the BYU quarterback.
Back when the pair were eight years old, Wilson and Milne played on different football teams, later also playing against each other in basketball. Milne, from South Jordan, couldn’t stand the kid from Draper.
But things changed when they started playing on the same team in middle school. It took Wilson sharing mutual friends with Milne for the BYU wide receiver to start opening up to the blonde, blue-eye quarterback. And Milne started to view Wilson’s skills differently.
“I just respected him because of how much of a competitor he was,” Milne said. “And then, you know how it is, once you start being on the same team, you start kind of growing a brotherhood. And then a friendship grew.”
But back then, as Milne was coming around to liking Wilson, he never would have thought that Wilson would become the Cougars' star quarterback, making insane plays that would garner national praise.
This season, Wilson is completing 75% of his passes, having thrown for 2,152 yards and 19 touchdowns, while only having been picked off twice. He’s also made seven rushing touchdowns.
Wilson hasn’t accomplished this alone. The wide receiver group has stepped up to fill the hole from last season after three of the top receivers graduated (Micah Simon, Aleva Hifo and Talon Shumway). This year’s receivers haven’t missed a beat.
And Milne has been integral to that production.
The junior, through seven games, has amassed 706 receiving yards and scored six times.
“Never in a million years would I have thought that in a couple of years he’d be my quarterback, throwing passes at BYU,” Milne said. “But it happened.”
The main reason why Milne never thought Wilson would become a BYU star is because Wilson hated BYU.
The Draper native grew up a hard-core Utah fan, but after the Utes didn’t make an offer, Wilson started looking at other programs. The quarterback from Corner Canyon initially committed to Boise State — and tried getting Milne, and even Brayden Cosper, to ditch their commitments to BYU and instead go to Idaho with him.
“I was trying to get them to decommit,” Wilson said. “I was like ‘you don’t want to go to BYU. That’s not where you guys want to be.’ I remember Brayden telling me, ‘dude, I promise you, wait until you talk to coach Kalani [Sitake]. You’re going to be here at BYU.’ I guess Kalani talked me into it.”
Utah liked Wilson, but had already committed a scholarship to another quarterback. But he was always on Sitake’s radar. And the BYU coach sees it as a huge win.
Sitake believed in Wilson. Through recruiting, he saw what he believes was the “it” factor from Wilson.
When recruiting, Sitake tries to see past just the highlight reels — there’s a lot of development players can accomplish — and listen to his gut. His gut told him Wilson would be able to make a presence on the field.
“When all is said and done, it’s down to the kid and what he decides and his family decides is best for him,” Kalani said. “In recruiting, the worst thing that can happen is someone goes to a school that they wish they would have been somewhere else. … That does us no good and does him no good.”
With the way the Cougars' season is going, and the improvement seen from Wilson, it’s pretty certain he doesn’t regret his decision to come to BYU.
But his success has led people to speculate that Wilson may choose to enter the NFL draft after this season. Either way, Wilson’s time at BYU — as is Milne’s — is coming to an end.
But the friendship won’t end.
“I feel like, even when football ends, we’ll always keep in touch,” Milne said. “At least, I’d like to say that — that’s the plan — but I know how life is.”
NO. 9 BYU AT NO. 21 BOISE STATE
When • Friday, 7:45 p.m. MST
TV • FS1