The end of Heppner's football season last week marked the culmination of a sterling four-year varsity career for quarterback Jayden Wilson.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pounds Wilson – who led the Mustangs to the 2A title as a junior – won his last 18 games to finish 31-7 as a starter. In his career, he passed for 3,683 yards and 53 touchdowns and ran for 1,826 yards and 40 scores.
Heppner coach Greg Grant, who has had three state title teams in his 31 seasons at Heppner, said Wilson is among the “top very, very few” of the players he has coached.
“As a freshman, he was well ahead of his years,” Grant said. “He's spent a lot of time and energy training, going to camps and bettering himself. He's a super kid, and a very good student. It's just been a real privilege to have him.”
Wilson bounced back from breaking his leg in the first round of the 2018 playoffs to blossom as a junior, throwing for 23 touchdowns and running for 14 scores in leading Heppner to a 13-0 record. He also had three interceptions and three fumble recoveries at defensive back.
In the past year, Wilson raised his profile by traveling to Portland and Eugene to participate in quarterback training. He attracted college attention, receiving offers from Western Oregon, Pacific, Carroll College (Montana), Lewis & Clark, Linfield, Presentation College (S.D.) and Valparaiso (Ind.), a Division I program.
Wilson signed with Western Oregon in February, part of a class that includes four quarterbacks.
“I don’t mind the competition,” Wilson told the East Oregonian. “It keeps me from getting complacent. I have never been handed anything. I’m excited to get to grinding and show the coaches I deserve to play.”
With his size and athleticism, Wilson has the potential to play other positions. At one combine, he had the best vertical jump (36 inches), horizontal jump (9-10) and clocked 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
“I think some people have looked at him and said, 'Well, we can make a football player out of this,'” Grant said. “But he's played quarterback since the fourth grade, and he's been to multiple training sessions, and he's devoted to giving that a shot. I think that him having the ball in his hands, and him being able to distribute it, would be a pleasure for anybody to work with.”
Heppner implemented the run-pass option in 2019 to enhance Wilson's dual-threat ability.
“We tried to feature the fact that he might take off on any given play,” Grant said. “He's developed a real feel for that. He's had some great teammates blocking for him and running alongside him, so he hasn't been a one-man show by any stretch of the imagination.”
With Wilson, running backs Blake Wolters and Brock Hisler and receiver Jackson Lehman leading the way, Heppner (5-0) averaged 40.6 points this season, much of it coming in the first half.
In limited action, Wilson completed 34 of 48 passes for 562 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions and rushed for 337 yards and 10 scores on 33 carries.