Zach Wilson’s birthday has yielded NFL stars
August 3 has already borne some birthdays of epic proportions, including Evangeline “The Wasp” Lilly and John C. “Dr. Cox” McGinley. The New York Jets and their supporters certainly hope their incoming star joins the illustrious list of both fictional and actual heroes; the latter group is often found on the football field.
Zach Wilson turns 22 on Tuesday, just over a month before he makes his scheduled NFL regular season debut. Should he take the field for the Jets’ Week 1 contest against Carolina, he’ll become the second-youngest starting quarterback in Jets history, bested only by his predecessor Sam Darnold.
If Wilson’s birthday brothers are any indication, the Jets are set for some good – perhaps even downright historic – times on the field for the foreseeable future.
Lance Alworth (born 1940)
Alworth might’ve been the “GOAT” before endless “embrace debate” arguments were a 24-hour phenomenon.
Best known for his endeavors with the San Diego Chargers (1962-70), Alworth was one of the greatest players in American Football League history. Despite the offensive explosion seen in the NFL in recent seasons, Alworth still holds several prominent NFL receiving records, including most contests with at least 200 yards (5, tied with Calvin Johnson) and most touchdowns receptions of at least 70 yards (12).
Alworth is also the fastest receiver to reach 5,000, 6,000, 7,000, and 8,000 yards each. He became the first player to predominantly spend his career with an AFL squad to reach the Hall of Fame in 1978 and was named to the NFL’s All-Time team in celebration of the league’s 100th anniversary 41 years later.
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Maxie Baughan (born 1938)
Baughan has been elected to nearly every Hall of Fame he could possibly get to – Georgia Tech’s, the states of Georgia and Alabama’s, College Football’s, the Philadelphia Eagles’ – except for the one in Canton.
Baughan made an impact from the very start of a 12-year NFL career, playing a major role in the Eagles’ storied 1960 season, one that served as their last championship campaign until their recent Super Bowl run. Baughan was elected to his first of nine Pro Bowls that season.
After his football career, Baughan spent a quarter-century as a coach on both the collegiate and professional levels. That included a six-year stretch in the Ivy League that ended in controversy (he was accused of carrying an affair with an assistant coach’s wife) as he led the Big Red to their first conference title in nearly two decades.
Tom Brady (born 1977)
It’s going to take a lot for Wilson to become the best quarterback on his own birthday. Trevor Lawrence, for example, only needs to beat out Tony Dungy, he of eight total passes in his three-year NFL career.
Little needs to be said about Brady, the 20-year New England Patriot who returns to haunt Gang Green’s schedule on January 2 as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 2020 season had its share of abnormalities amidst the health crisis, but it ended in a familiar fashion: with Brady hoisting not only the Super Bowl’s Vince Lombardi Trophy for the seventh time but the Pete Rozelle MVP trophy for a fifth. Brady is also the league’s all-time leader in yardage (91,563), completions (8,542), and touchdown passes (664).
The scariest part? One can easily add “and counting” to each of those marks.
Todd Gurley (born 1994)
Alas, Gurley is slowly becoming one of the more unfortunate cases of “what might have been” in NFL history. He tallied 4,457 yards and 46 touchdowns over his first four seasons on the ground, but knee issues have derailed his career. Gurley remains a free agent after spending last season with his hometown Atlanta Falcons.
Many feel that a reunion between Gurley and his rushing-starved former employers, the Los Angeles Rams, would help him get back on track. Los Angeles played host to some of Gurley’s finest NFL hours and the Rams, who released the Georgia alum last offseason, are looking for some experience in the backfield after losing Cam Akers for the year.
Kris Jenkins (born 1979)
Jenkins enjoyed an All-Pro season with the Jets in 2008 but is perhaps best known for his days with the Carolina Panthers (2001-07). Injuries derailed his career in Charlotte, but Jenkins nonetheless earned three other Pro Bowl visits.
Notably, Jenkins made NFL history in 2003 when he blocked an extra point with no time on the clock to send a showdown with the defending champion Buccaneers into overtime, the first such instance in NFL history.
Trevor Pryce (born 1975)
Pryce would be one of the more prominent members of the “wait, he played for the Jets?” team. It was appropriate for the NYC native to end his career in green, finishing off with 13 games in 2010, including the run to the AFC title game, where he earned a sack against the Steelers.
A three-time All-Pro defensive tackle, Pryce was a big part of a pair of Super Bowl runs with the Denver Broncos, who chose him 28th overall in the 1997 draft.
- Honorable Mentions: Younghoe Koo, Derwin James, Kwon Alexander, Ronald Jones, Dante Fowler
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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