Isaac Wilson might follow in his brother Zach’s footsteps — but he’ll take a different path to get there

The brother of Zach Wilson and a member of the arguably the most talked about football family in Utah, the 16-year-old wants to be known on his own

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Corner Canyon quarterback Isaac Wilson in action vs Pleasant Grove, in Draper on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

Draper • The quarterback with the black cutoff T-shirt and bleach-blond hair is leading a huddle. Off to the side on the track, no football nearby, he’s passing around a half-eaten bag of mango fruit bites.

As soon as Isaac Wilson had his hands on the post-practice currency, he grabbed a few for himself. Then, knowing what he has is in high demand, he started holding court as he doled them out to his teammates, ribbing them about subjects you would expect from a junior in high school.

Today the topic is Utah quarterback Cam Rising’s late-game heroics. But this conversation could just as easily be about hitting up In-and-Out Burger after the next game. Or, maybe more likely, about who is heading to the volleyball game, a favorite pastime for the 6-foot signal caller.

“He loves it, the high school experience,” Eric Kjar, his high school coach at Corner Canyon, said. “He gets a little tired of the recruiting stuff. Others love it, but he just wants to play football and be a regular high school kid.”

And as you see him here, holding a post-practice consortium, you understand why. Because here, he is not Zach Wilson’s little brother or a member of the most famous football family in Utah. He isn’t the seventh-best quarterback in the 2024 class with a litany of offers. He is just Isaac, a 16-year-old fretting over talking to cheerleaders, getting his homework done and making time to get his driver license.

He cherishes these moments because he knows in two years his life will look much different.

“It gets crazy sometimes. Football and school is how I get away from the pressure,” Isaac said.

And there is pressure in every facet of his highly scrutinized life.

When he heads to his phone, there are “150 texts” from college coaches inquiring about his talents. On the weekends, he jets off to take high-profile recruiting visits and watch his brother play for the New York Jets (this week it was a trip to Michigan and a visit to Lambeau Field).

It seems every time his family is near a football field, there are cameras waiting to broadcast their exploits to the nation.

But Isaac, learning from his brother and relying on his natural disposition, doesn’t pay much attention to that. To him, all of that will be there for him eventually. All that matters now is playing high school football, living out as normal of an experience as possible.

He bites into another mango fruit without a care in the world.

A rarity

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Corner Canyon quarterback Isaac Wilson celebrates a touchdown vs Pleasant Grove, in Draper on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

Wilson, by all accounts, is a rarity in the circles of high school’s top prospects. Whereas most top quarterbacks become obsessed with recruiting, keying in on every detail between their sophomore and junior seasons, Wilson went the opposite way.

“He is very laid back,” Mike Wilson, his father, said.

Laid back almost to the point his father can’t understand it.

Last summer, Wilson was invited to an elite quarterback camp in Georgia. The Bulldogs’ head coach and reigning national champion Kirby Smart was there. So too was about every other top-10 quarterback in his class.

And about halfway through the workout, Mike Wilson’s jaw almost dropped. Isaac was out at midfield dancing to the blaring music.

“I’m like, Dude, ‘What are you doing?” he said. “And he’s just like, ‘Dude, everybody was so tense out there.’”

What Smart, and dozens of other coaches, saw that day was that Wilson was different. He doesn’t take life too seriously. He isn’t in a major rush to get to his next stop even if his talent will inevitably take him there.

After all, this is the same player who waited until his junior year to start in high school — something that almost never happens for top quarterbacks. Isaac elected to stay at Corner Canyon rather than transfer because he trusted in the coaching staff and wanted to live a normal high school experience.

And the gamble paid off as he accounted for 3,312 yards and 29 touchdowns his junior year. He now sits with offers from Georgia, Oregon, Miami, Oklahoma State and BYU to name a few.

“My Dad was like, ‘Do you want to transfer?” Isaac said. “I took a minute, saw what we had returning and my future, and decided to stay.”

And some people will say that Isaac can afford to do that. His brother was the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft; eyes were already on him. He had his first offer from the Cougars before ever starting a game in high school.

But to those around him, say this isn’t calculated. It’s just who he is.

A family

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mike Wilson with his son, Corner Canyon quarterback Isaac Wilson, at a game vs Pleasant Grove, in Draper on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

The ironic part, or fitting, is that Isaac Wilson’s demeanor is so far from everyone in his family and everything his family does. The Wilsons are, by nearly every metric, the most talked about family in Utah right now.

“You could say that,” Isaac laughed. “I think it’s kind of funny.”

There is his brother Zach, who is the starting quarterback for the Jets. There is Lisa Wilson, his mother, who has 125,000 followers on social media. There are his two other brothers, Micah and Josh, who both play for BYU.

And just that would be hard enough for a 16-year-old kid to follow.

“Everyone is like, ‘Oh, you are Zach Wilson’s little brother,” Isaac said. “Know me by me, I’m Isaac Wilson all right. It is fun though.”

Zach’s standout career at BYU and status as a first-round NFL quarterback had already thrust the Wilsons into the spotlight.

But that light intensified over the summer.

Zach Wilson’s ex-girlfriend made the tabloids when she accused Wilson of having a romance with his mother’s best friend. The story took on a life of its own, and the Jets quarterback picked up a national following just for that rumor alone.

When the Wilsons went to dinner in Denver, before Zach played the Broncos, there was a 10-year-old kid holding up a sign that read, “Tell Zach’s Mom I say hi.”

“It’s weird,” Mike says. “But Isaac just laughs about it like everybody else, he knows it’s not true. It’s perfect Isaac.”

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Pittsburgh. The Jets won 24-20. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

But even if Isaac Wilson’s personality allows it all to roll off his back, there are certain things he can’t avoid. One is the lifestyle, and two are the comparisons.

He doesn’t have a typical teenage routine. After games on Friday night, Wilson is often off to a different city to watch Zach play. That could mean going to New York or Green Bay or Denver. And when they are on the road, they can’t avoid people wanting pictures and autographs.

He can’t avoid the comparisons to his brother. Zach Wilson’s legendary success at BYU, where he starred while throwing for 7,652 yards and 56 touchdowns in three years, has people looking at Isaac wondering what’s next.

Everything is scrutinized, down to their behavior. Zach was underrecruited but laser-focused as a high school kid. Isaac is highly touted but less intense.

“We don’t compare him to Zach,” Mike said. “We try to make it just about what Isaac’s done and what Isaac is doing and we try not to put a lot of pressure on him. He just shows up and plays. And we focus on the season and we try to win one game at a time.”

The future

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Corner Canyon quarterback Isaac Wilson in action vs Pleasant Grove, in Draper on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

Over the summer, Wilson was scheduled to go on a string of unofficial visits to Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, LSU and Tennessee. It is one of those trips that all the high-profile recruits relish and post on social media.

But Isaac didn’t want to go.

“Honestly, sometimes I ask him, ‘Do you want to play college football?’” said Mike Wilson, who eventually persuaded his son to go. “And he’s like, ‘Yeah.’ He’s just kind of funny that way. He doesn’t like all the hype. He doesn’t like to travel, but it’s kind of a necessary evil unfortunately.”

The whole interaction showed a lot about where Isaac stands right now in his recruiting process. He wants to play college football, and will have the pick of where he eventually suits up, but it isn’t everything he thinks about.

In fact, he thinks more about his high school football team than anything else. It is the one place he can be himself.

“I’ve seen it where kids go play in college and they get a little too caught up in, ‘All right I’m going to college,’ Kjar said. “Well, first of all, finish your high school career. It is a special time, and he should enjoy it.”

Likely, sooner rather than later, Wilson will pick a college and embark on the path to his own celebrity. He won’t have the luxury of not traveling or having a reprieve from the limelight.

But until that point, he is going to soak up everything his current situation has to offer, unencumbered by his future or his family.

After all, he says mangoes still in hand, he has high school playoffs to worry about and then a senior year of high school left to enjoy.

He then takes a few more bites and runs up to his friends, talking about the next topic that any junior in high school would.