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Garrett Wilson’s high school coach discusses the New York Jets WR’s superstar potential
During the 2001 NFL draft at Madison Square Garden, the New York Jets selected Santana Moss, a wide receiver from the University of Miami, with the 16th overall pick of the first round. Moss would wind up playing four seasons for the green and white before taking off for Washington, but his 1,105-yard output in 2003 is still the third-best receiving yardage performance from any Jets receiver in the two decades since.
In the next 20 drafts after taking Moss, the Jets did not select a single receiver in the first round, opting instead to build through the later rounds and free agency. With far more botches than success stories to show for it, that strategy finally changed last month when general manager Joe Douglas made the decision to spend the 10th overall pick in the 2022 draft on wide receiver Garrett Wilson out of Ohio State.
Wilson, 21, wasn’t even a full year old the last time the Jets franchise opted to put its faith in a first-round prospect at his position. In fact, he was an infant, living in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio with his parents and four siblings.
But now, six feet and 188 pounds later, the Jets have gone out and spent a top 10 overall pick on him — talk about a vote of confidence.
That confidence, though, is well deserved. Not only did Wilson fight his way onto the field early on in his Buckeyes career, but he did so against top-notch competition. His teammates included fellow 2022 first-rounders Chris Olave and Jameson Williams among many others.
Despite such an incredibly crowded and talented receiving room around him, Wilson concluded his time as a Buckeye with 143 receptions for 2,213 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Wilson also made sure to show up and make the absolute most out of the opportunities he got as a true freshman. If you haven’t yet seen his sideline grab in the College Football Playoffs against Clemson in 2019, it’s definitely worth the watch to see the 19-year-old make a DeAndre Hopkins-esque catch against top competition.
Garrett Wilson made this unreal catch as a TRUE freshman 🤯 pic.twitter.com/x0hh5l7l4F
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) May 27, 2020
But before even Ohio State, Wilson was dominating on a smaller scale at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, where his family moved when he was in the sixth grade.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had another player quite like Garrett Wilson,” Lake Travis head coach Hank Carter told Jets X-Factor in an exclusive interview.
Lake Travis is a school that’s churned out several future NFL players over the years, including Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
“From the first moment that we saw Garrett, we knew that he was a very gifted athlete,” Carter said.
Gifted indeed. Wilson concluded his time at Lake Travis having racked up 3,639 receiving yards and 61 total touchdowns, becoming a five-star recruit and being ranked the nation’s No. 2 overall receiver in the 2019 recruiting class.
But Carter insists it’s more than just on-field talent that Wilson brings to a franchise — he embraces the off-field roles expected of him as well.
“The thing that I’ve been constantly impressed by, is how he handled not only the attention of being a really high-profile athlete, but the way that he would hang around after a game until all the kids wanted his autograph or wanted to throw the football with him,” Carter told Jets X-Factor.
“It’s just kind of like he knew what was going to be expected of him, and he understood the impact he could have on our school, our community and on the others around him, and he just embraced that all the time.”
That kind of professionalism and understanding of his less apparent responsibilities is a trait that cannot be overvalued, particularly in New York, a city known for its passionate, die-hard fanbases. Not every prospect possesses these traits.
Carter attributes Wilson’s maturity to his mother and father. “Just a great family,” he said. “I think you can kind of tell by the way Garrett goes about his business that he has a great mom and dad who poured their heart and soul into their family and into raising some great people.”
Wilson’s father, Kenneth, was an impressive athlete himself back in the day, dominating high school basketball before taking his talents to Davidson for Division I college ball. He remains in Davidson’s hall of fame and finished his career ranked fifth in school history with 1,573 career points.
— NFL (@NFL) May 2, 2022
— New York Jets (@nyjets) May 7, 2022
Considering his father’s success on the hardwood, it’s relatively unsurprising to find out that Garrett also starred in basketball during his time at Lake Travis. He played on the varsity team all the way through his junior year, only opting out of his senior season to graduate early.
According to most people who’ve seen him hoop, Garrett is nearly just as good on the hardwood as he is on the football field, and he himself still cites basketball as his first love.
— NYJ Matt (@NYJ_Matt) May 20, 2022
“I was very concerned that we would lose him to basketball because of just how good he was at it,” recalled Carter. “But I think he really saw that the opportunities he had in football were just different.” He chuckled and let out a big sigh before adding, “I really dodged a bullet with that.”
It was around this time in 2021 that we learned about Jets sophomore QB Zach Wilson’s own impressive basketball background. Perhaps the two can play a one-on-one match, live-streamed for fans? Just food for thought.
Carter recounted to Jets X-Factor the multitude of ways in which he would deploy the freakishly athletic Wilson on the gridiron at Lake Travis.
“Even as a sophomore he was the vertical threat guy for us. Even as a sophomore, nobody could guard him,” Carter said. “But still, we continued to use his throwing ability, so we could use him in double passes, reverse passes, and trick plays. He always had a knack for that.”
Carter says Wilson’s considerable arm talent likely stems from his background as a quarterback in his younger days. In fact, they even had him under center for a brief stint as a freshman at Lake Travis, only moving him to receiver because they saw a higher ceiling for him there.
“If he would’ve stayed at quarterback, he would’ve been a Division I quarterback too,” Carter said. This could be some juicy information for Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who we already know loves to get creative with his receivers.
Speaking of LaFleur, it’s a safe assumption to make that he had a fair amount of input on the selection of Wilson. Again, to spend a top ten pick on a player means there’s a great deal of confidence in his abilities — Wilson was drafted to be the Jets’ number one wide receiver at some point down the line. Is he up to the challenge?
“Obviously the game’s going to change some. The passing game in the NFL is going to be different,” Carter said.
“But I actually think that’s one of the benefits. It’s why he and his family chose to go to Ohio State … They knew he was going to be developed in a passing game that would be able to translate to him taking the next step into the NFL and being ready for that. I don’t think it’s going to take him very long at all. I follow trends — he’s been a special player and he’s dominated at every step he’s ever been, and I think he’s going to do the same thing at this next step.”
The AFC East features some really talented receivers, including Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. While it’s a lot to ask of a 21-year-old to step in right away and perform to the level of someone like Diggs or Hill, it is clear that selecting a player with Wilson’s upside was the best-case scenario for the Jets at No. 10 overall. Simply put, Wilson figures to be a star sooner rather than later.