BYU quarterback Zach Wilson’s NFL moment has arrived

Wilson’s meteoric rise up the draft board comes to what should be a celebratory climax Thursday night. Provo is ready, with an almost-finished mural that only needs the QB’s new team colors.

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Brigham Young Cougars Zach Wilson takes the field with the team as starting quarterback as Brigham Young University hosts Hawaii at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Saturday Oct. 13, 2018.

The stage is set, the lights are ready and all eyes are on Zach Wilson.

Will he make history as BYU’s highest selected draft pick ever? Is he really a lock to the New York Jets?

Yes, and probably.

All that and more will be revealed Thursday, when the 2021 NFL draft kicks off at 6 p.m. MDT in Cleveland.

But there is someone who’s more than ready and feels confident about where the former BYU quarterback will find himself as he starts his professional career: Aljay Fuimaono.

The local artist recently painted a mural of Wilson in downtown Provo, a project sponsored by Bose. Murals of Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields also went up at their respective college towns.

The headphone company reached out to Fuimaono through Muros, an art agency that brings together local artists with brands and businesses, at the start of the month. Since then, after sharing multiple photos, Bose and Fuimaono came together on the image — a photoshopped photo — for the mural.

The mural is almost done, just missing one thing — Wilson’s NFL jersey.

On Thursday evening, Fuimaono will be on stand-by, waiting for Wilson’s name to be called out by a team so he can start painting and finish the job.

What color is Fuimaono stocking up on? Hunter green, of course.

Fuimaono, as the majority of NFL analysts and Wilson fans believe, the former Cougar will be selected as the No. 2 pick by the Jets.

Fuimaono, himself, is a huge BYU fan. And, over the last few years, became a big fan of Wilson as well.

The Utah-based artist loves how no one was even looking at Wilson when the 2020 season was set to start, but the BYU quarterback took the pandemic season and turned it into something special — the Cougars’ best season in a decade.

And he believes that’s why people have really connected with the quarterback from Draper.

“Just because he represents what everybody’s going through, especially coming out of a pandemic year,” Fuimaono said. “It’s like a representation of that, where he came out strong out of the circumstances he was in. He just came out on top. And I think, for a lot of people, we look at him and imagine ourselves in those shoes, trying to come out on top out of this situation, of this crazy pandemic.”

Wilson emerged as a dark horse of sorts early in the season, he’s now a full-fledged frontrunner. Nearly all mock drafts have him going to the Jets at No. 2, with an occasional tilt to the 49ers at No. 3.

Recently, NFL and college football analyst Steve Beuerlein said he sees a former NFL quarterback in Wilson.

“He reminds me of another really cool QB from back in our time, Joe Montana,” he said.

Former 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora Jr. gave his scouting report of Wilson to All 49ers FN. Long story short, Mora Jr. believes Wilson “could be the guy who leads them to another Super Bowl.”

“I think a real close comparison is Aaron Rodgers,” Mora Jr. told All 49ers FN. “I watch Zach throw the football and it’s a beautiful ball. I see him throwing to his left, throwing to his right. I see him throwing from the pocket. I see him creating in and out of the pocket. I see him throwing with great accuracy. I see him being protective of the football. I see him being able to buy time in the pocket, out of the pocket, remain a threat as a passer, not tuck and run too soon, find guys late in the down for big plays, and I see his demeanor and his poise, and that reminds me of Aaron Rodgers. I’m not predicting that he’ll have the career that Rodgers has, but that’s who he reminds me of.”

The Jets have been unable to churn out a franchise quarterback for some time now. Since Joe Namath retired following the 1976 season, 34 different quarterbacks have started for the Jets.

Back in 2014, former NFL signal-caller Drew Bledsoe gave a blunt assessment of the Jets’ history with QBs: “That’s where quarterbacks go to die,” he said.

That much has been indisputable. But changes may be afoot. New Jets coach Robert Saleh, has generated some early enthusiasm in the Meadowlands, and Wilson will become a big part of that optimism if the Jets indeed stick with the BYU quarterback at No. 2, as they are expected to. And, of course, if Wilson lives up to the hype.


All times Mountain

When • Thursday, April 29, 6 p.m.; Friday April 30, 5 p.m.; Saturday, May 1, 10 a.m.

TV • Ch. 4, ESPN, NFL Network

Count former BYU quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young among the believers. Young told Stephen A. Smith on ESPN that Wilson is coming in fully equipped and ready to perform at a high level.

Wilson, who played three years for the Cougars, showed NFL scouts and coaches “the subtleness of how he played, the sense of spacial relationship,” Young said.

Looking closely at Wilson, some coaches have intimated that they actually prefer the BYU quarterback over Lawrence, Young said. With that level of talent, Wilson could fit in anywhere.

“The subtleties of his game were so natural,” Young said. “You can’t create that. You can’t fake that. You either have it or you don’t. And when you see someone who’s in college doing things that a pro does, you’re like ‘wait a second.’”