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Zach Wilson wasn’t a member of the Jets for enough time to take his girlfriend out for a celebratory dinner before he already was showing the kind of leadership the team desperately hopes translates into wins, division titles and Super Bowl-title runs in short time.
Twelve picks after Wilson was drafted with the second-overall pick on April 29, the Jets took USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker with the 14th pick. Not long after that, they selected Mississippi receiver Elijah Moore at the top of the second round.
For Vera-Tucker and Moore, it must have felt as if Wilson had been in the Jets’ war room making the picks, based on how quickly he reached out to them with texts and phone calls welcoming them to his team.
It was the same for Michael Carter, the North Carolina running back who was picked in the fourth round, on Day 3 of the draft.
“Just talking to him on the phone, I could tell he’s like a general,’’ Moore said Friday at the first day of the Jets’ three-day rookie camp. “His passion comes out through the phone. He wrote to me on social media and said he was pumped and he texted me and said he was fired up.’’
Indeed, when Moore was drafted by the Jets, Wilson tweeted: “LESSS GOOO. Time to get to work @e_moore03 so pumped for you bro! @nyjets.’’
“We’ve been in contact almost every single day [since the draft] despite both of us very busy now learning the playbook,’’ Moore said. “He’s someone who wasted no time [reaching out]. As soon as [the Jets] got me, I started watching his [college] highlights and he started watching mine, just trying to see what I got and he’s got.
“I’m going to do everything I can to make him look good and vice versa.’’
This thing, of course, is at its infant stage — the Jets, new head coach Robert Saleh and Wilson trying to turn a decade of losing into a new era of winning.
Saleh took the first of a number of baby steps, as he was getting to see his rookie class for the first time in person on grass instead of a Zoom call.
Wilson stuck out among the 30 rookies for a number of reasons.
First, he was the No. 2-overall pick in the draft and the player for whom Joe Douglas has pushed all of his general manager chips to the middle of the table, betting on the organization finally getting this franchise quarterback thing right.
Second, Wilson is the only quarterback among the rookie class, which means his No. 2 jersey was the only red jersey on the field, signifying: Look, but don’t touch.
It’s the way Wilson has conducted himself behind closed doors and away from the cameras, though, that has been most impressive. This rookie camp, in the words of Saleh, is a “low-pressure’’ opportunity for “these guys to introduce themselves to us.’’
Wilson had already begun that process on his own, during the draft, when he texted his fellow draft picks as they were selected, to welcome them.
“He texted me when I got drafted, just trying to build a relationship with him,’’ Carter said Friday. “I’ve been talking to him the last couple of days. I’m really excited.’’
What was Wilson’s message to Carter on draft day?
“It was mostly, ‘I’m excited to have you on my team. I think you’re a hell of a player. I can’t wait to get to work,’ ’’ Carter said.
This is only the beginning of what the Jets hope will be a long and prosperous journey, but Wilson’s leadership skills already are shining through.
“The more I talked to him, I can see how people would say [Wilson is a great leader] just because of his energy and he’s not afraid to speak up and show his persona,’’ Carter said.
“I’ve talked to him a lot the last couple days,’’ Vera-Tucker said. “He wants to get to know us and bring us all in and turn this organization around.’’
What was Wilson’s message to Vera-Tucker when he first texted him?
“He just welcomed me in and after that it was, ‘Let’s get this thing done and work hard,’ ’’ Vera-Tucker said.
That’s music to the ears of the Jets and their fan base, which are starved for a winner.
“I’m a big believer in bringing the guys around you together having a strong connection with them,’’ Wilson said after he was drafted. “So, that’s a leader I’m going to be.’’
Wilson was making good on that promise before he pulled a Jets jersey over his shoulders.
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