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Up in the Air With Jets Phenom Garrett Wilson

Last Updated: September 18, 2023
The prolific vertical threat dishes to Boardroom about his friendship with Aaron Rodgers, the return of Zach Wilson, his growing portfolio off the field, and more.

On the day after the most eventful New York Jets game in recent memory, second–year wide receiver Garrett Wilson looked relaxed and composed in a black baseball cap and a white t-shirt despite admitting some postgame soreness.

A 22-16 overtime win in upset fashion over the division rival Buffalo Bills Monday night began with newly acquired superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffering a season-ending torn Achilles tendon four plays and 75 seconds into the game. It ended with a walk-off punt return touchdown from undrafted rookie Xavier Gipson.

“It was a really special game that I can imagine will be talked about for a while, at least in our facility,” Wilson told Boardroom as part of a conversation facilitated by C4 Energy and the brand’s Energy That Hits campaign. “There were definitely some tough moments in that game and that’s what made the victory at the end so beautiful.”

The 23-year-old said he’d never experienced so many highs and lows in a single game, one that contained nearly every emotion you could fathom. A win like that is why you play the game, Wilson said, a victory that took all 53 players on the active roster to secure. The only real way to come down from that game’s highs and lows, however, was simple — go back out and get the physical and mental reps in to prepare for the next matchup, a Sept. 17 contest on the road against the Dallas Cowboys that represents the NFL’s lead broadcast in Week 3’s late afternoon window.

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A change at quarterback doesn’t mean that the book is closed on Wilson and Rodgers, who developed a strong relationship ever since the Jets completed the blockbuster April trade with Green Bay to bring in the future Hall of Famer. Despite a 16-year age difference, the two clicked and began attending sporting events together and sharing numerous conversations on and off the field and via text.

“The age gap, we put all that aside, man. We had a great relationship and we still have a great relationship,” Wilson said. “For him to go down like that was something that weighed hard on me and still is. I feel for him, man, but I’m confident we’ll continue to build our relationship in maybe a little different way than we had expected.”

Rodgers’ replacement, Zach Wilson, now starts for the Jets after a disappointing first two NFL seasons, but Garrett Wilson is one of the reasons Gang Green fans should still be optimistic about their chances this season. For his own part, the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft out of Ohio State is coming off a season in which he recorded 83 catches for 1,103 yards in 2022 on his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. On Monday, his acrobatic three-yard, game-tying touchdown catch in the fourth quarter could go down as one of the grabs of the year.

“It’s hard to imitate reps like that,” he said, “but it’s really about the will to catch the ball. We call it ‘owning the ball’ in the receiver room, and it’s just a mindset that if the ball’s in the air, it’s my ball. Our quarterback’s trusting us to put it up in the air. Zach did that and it’s just the will to finish the play, make a catch, a play for your quarterback.”

While Wilson said it’s impossible to practice that kind of reception, it’s more about a mantra the team preaches that helps enable success of that magnitude.

Wilson is a big believer in being repaid by the football gods if you love the game and put the time in to refine your craft.

“I’ve always got a football in my hand,” he said, “and I like to think that’s the reason why things like that will happen.”

The Columbus, Ohio, native is also a big believer in keeping the main thing the main thing, a strategy that drives his success both on and off the field. In addition to C4, Wilson’s growing endorsement portfolio includes Adidas, Tag Heuer, and Dr. Teal’s, and he prefers to partner with products he’s had experience with before to make the subsequent experience feel seamless.

“C4 helps me get that jolt, and that boost of energy before you go out there and take the field is vital,” Wilson, who’s convinced teammates to try C4 as well, said. “And for me, it’s every day finding that edge to make sure that when I do take the field, I can perform to the level that I want to. C4 definitely helps me get there.”

While Wilson said he’s still trying find to his exact identity in how he defines himself as a brand, what he endorses or puts out on social media to give back to his fans and his nearly 400,000 Instagram followers consistently reflects what he’s passionate about and what matters personally to him.

Building his brand identity through paid endorsements began during his final season at Ohio State in 2021, which coincided with the first year of legalized name, image, and likeness monetization in amateur sports. Though Wilson said he didn’t realize how big the NIL marketplace could get, working with companies like Outback Steakhouse while still in Columbus helped him learn to represent himself as a professional partner for the first time.

Making some money off of it all didn’t hurt, either.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was my first intro to this world,” he said. “NIL has taken off since that point and I’m excited to see it keep growing, but those kids coming out of college now will be prepped for all this. They’re already living in this world, so I love to see it.”

Today, Wilson said he devotes about 80% of his time to football and the remaining 20% to his other pursuits. That includes his two-and-a-half-year-old shiba inu, Melo, who has been featured in recent collaborations with Instagram and Peacock.

“He’s everything you could want in a dog,” he said. “I got him in college, so I was living alone in an apartment, and because of that, he’s so reliant on me. And then once I got out of college, my mom came and stayed with us. And so now, his focus has diverted from me a little bit. He loves my mom so much, but I still think that I’m the one for him, bro. He loves me and I love him. He kind of goes with me everywhere and I think he appreciates that and likes it a lot.”

Wilson also uses video games like EA Sports’ Madden to escape from the stresses of the real world for a moment or two. He also enjoys drawing, listening to music from artists like Daniel Caesar and Lil Uzi Vert, and TV shows like his current obsession, Succession. While admittedly late on the show, he’s onto the fourth and final season and he mainly thinks about it in football season mode because he has such little time to actually watch it.

“I love this script writing and I love all the characters. I am so invested,” Wilson said of HBO’s critical darling. “The majority of the time, it’s thinking about football or a TV show that I’m going to watch when I get back from that. Roman is hilarious, bro. He never really takes anything too seriously. He always knows how to have a good amount of fun and lightens up the room, but in his own way. It makes for good television, man.”

In order to build off a rookie of the year season and instigate his own succession plan into the NFL’s elite tier of wide receivers, Wilson said it’s all about just taking the right steps and improving each day. A team-first mindset and going about things the right way, he said, will keep him in the good graces of the football gods. Off the field, Wilson wants to keep getting to know himself better and getting the right amount of alone time, two things that can get overlooked and overshadowed by the all-encompassing nature of the NFL season.

If Wilson really gets in good with the football gods, perhaps he’ll lead the Jets to their first playoff appearance since 2010, the longest postseason drought among NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL teams.

“As far as football, let’s win games because our fans deserve it,” Wilson said. “They’re such a loyal fan base and haven’t had much to root for the last good amount of time, so I’m confident if we go about things the right way, everything will take care of itself.”

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