The Jets this week landed their second player via the state of Wisconsin when the Green & White drafted Milwaukee native defensive end/linebacker Will McDonald IV with the No. 15 overall section in the NFL Draft on Thursday night.
McDonald, a Badger by birth, joins QB Aaron Rodgers (a California native), who spent 18 seasons in Green Bay, on the Jets.
"I've actually followed Aaron Rodgers just being from Wisconsin," McDonald said. "I wasn't a Packers fan, but I was an Aaron Rodgers fan. It's actually a dream come true just playing with Aaron, being able to be around his mindset and how he works. I want to be around all that positivity, and I want it to rub off on everybody.:
McDonald, who will turn 24 on June 4, did not begin playing football until junior year in high school. He also lettered in baseball, basketball, and track and field (he was the Division I state track & field discus champion with a toss of 179-9 and was third in the high jump at 6-4.
"I was a real big basketball player at first," McDonald (6-3, 240) said. "My head coach kept coming up after practice —the football head coach, Coach [Matt] Harris — he kept coming up to me after practice and asking me to try out and so my junior year, I really took it seriously and I just went with it."
After transferring to Waukesha North High School after his freshman year, as a senior McDonald had 61 tackles, 20 TFL, 12 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He chose Iowa State over Minnesota and Baylor and is the first Cyclone to be drafted in the opening round since George Amundson in 1973. He also joins fellow Iowa State stars -- second-year RB Breece Hall and WR Allen Lazard (who was signed in free agency).
"I've already got two Cyclones there with Breece and Allen, my boys, so I'm just real excited," he said. "I actually talked to Breece this morning [Thursday] and I had no idea, but I had talked to Breece just about the draft and everything and how to approach it and stuff and I just got off the phone with him a couple of minutes ago when you all had picked me up and we were just talking and everything. Real cool experience."
He added: "I definitely can say Breece has taught me a lot, definitely helped me develop into the man I am today. It was just an honor. I'm back to being around my homies and so it's a real good experience."
McDonald is listed as a DE or edge, and he set an Iowa State record in 2021 with 11.5 sacks.
"I think there's a few times that he might have lined up a little bit more inside, maybe a four-technique or lined up a little bit closer to the blocker where I think he's going to be," said GM Joe Douglas. "Not to speak for Coach [Robert Saleh], but he's going to be coming off the edge and he's got all that God-given ability of length, the speed and athleticism. Again, he's been productive his entire career in games."
Saleh acknowledged that McDonald will have to bulk up before the start of the regular season in September, and build even more as his professional career progresses.
See the Jets 15th overall pick arriving at 1 Jets Drive.
"He's going to have to learn how to bring power, work with leverage and he did a lot of it," Saleh said. "You look at his Iowa State tape, he played a lot of 4-tech where he's head up on an offensive tackle, so he's got the power to stand in there. Just learning our technique, our stance, our alignment, the angles at which we play and the get off. Not overly concerned about him learning all that stuff, and again, just to add an elite pass rusher, because getting the quarterback on the ground is a premium. When you're sitting there at pick 15 and you feel like you have your best pass rusher staring at you in the face, I think it's just an easy decision."
McDonald comes to the Jets oozing confidence in his ability now, and in the long term.
"I'm just going to try to get into the Hall of Fame," he said. "I don't think I have a ceiling. I just want to keep rising. I want to keep improving one percent every day and do whatever I can."
He added: "I love hitting people. It goes exactly with my game, so I'm just really excited right now. I just can't wait to get there and start practicing and everything."