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BYU Alums in the NFL: Week 17 Recap, Zach Wilson Holds His Own vs. Defending Champs

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Zach Wilson went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady and Taysom Hill has the Saints fighting for a playoff spot down to the wire. BYU alums are all over the NFL map making an impact.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

BYU alums showed out once again in the NFL in Week 17. The Cougars boast two starting quarterbacks in the league at the moment.

Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets

The 4-12 Jets certainly had their work cut out for them against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. For most of the afternoon at MetLife Stadium, Wilson went toe-to-toe with the greatest quarterback of all-time. The Jets actually built a 24-10 lead over Tampa in the third quarter. Wilson looked as comfortable as he has ever looked in the NFL to this point, fitting accurate throws into tight windows and making the right decisions most of the time.

Unfortunately, the inevitable happened and Brady led a furious comeback against the Jets’ defense, eventually leading to a 28-24 defeat for New York. However, optimism is abound after Wilson performed well not only against one of the best teams in the NFL, but also without several key starters around him due to COVID issues on the team. He finished 19 for 33 for 234 yards and one touchdown, with a solid 89.7 passer rating, his second-highest mark of the season.

Wilson desperately needed an outing like this to provide some optimism and stave off the doubters heading into his first full offseason as a Jet.

Taysom Hill, QB, New Orleans Saints

Unlike Wilson, Hill is trying to lead his team to the playoffs. The Saints are very much alive in the playoff picture with just one week remaining. They kept their postseason hopes alive thanks to a defensive win over the Carolina Panthers, 18-10. While Hill did not do anything eye-popping in this game, he also avoided the critical mistakes and kept the Saints in the game. He finished the day with 222 passing yards and a passing touchdown, while racking up 45 yards on 12 carries on the ground.

The Saints can clinch a playoff spot in the final week of the season if they beat the Atlanta Falcons as well as if the 49ers lose to the Rams.

Jamaal Williams, RB, Detroit Lions

In the absence of De’Andre Swift, Williams has been the leading running back in Detroit. Swift returned against the Seahawks, leaving Williams to split time with him in the backfield. He still carried the ball 11 times for 22 yards with a rushing touchdown. During the game, Williams set a new career high, with 558 rushing yards on the year. He is also one touchdown away from tying his career high in rushing scores.

Fred Warner, LB, San Francisco 49ers

Warner also is trying to lead his team to the playoffs, as the 49ers must win and get some help this weekend to get in. Warner certainly did his part on Sunday against the Houston Texans, racking up a whopping 15 tackles, a season high for him, and a fumble forced in the 23-7 win. In 15 games this season, Warner has 129 tackles including six for loss. Frankly, he was a Pro Bowl snub this season after being First Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in 2020.

Khyiris Tonga, DT, Chicago Bears

One of the more viral events that happened among BYU alums in the NFL this past weekend occurred in Chicago. While at BYU, Tonga lined up a few times in a “scrum” formation on offense when BYU needed to get a yard or two for a first down or touchdown. Bears head coach Matt Nagy must have been watching film of his BYU days as he had Tonga line up at fullback on Chicago’s first drive. Tonga did what he does best, barreling over defenders as he plowed a hole for running back David Montgomery to score a two-yard rushing touchdown.

Tonga also has been logging more snaps at his traditional nose tackle spot, garnering 21 plays on defense on Sunday. This season, he has 21 tackles in limited action. He may see his role increased next season.

Other notables

Michael Davis, CB, Los Angeles Chargers- 6 tackles

Kyle Van Noy, LB, New England Patriots-4 tackles

Daniel Sorensen, S, Kansas City Chiefs- 3 tackles

Sione Takitaki, LB, Cleveland Browns- 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss