Wilson plans to spend the week working out with the Yankees, but will not play in any exhibition games for fear of injury — though he is not prohibited from doing so by the Seahawks.
If Wilson moved easily among the Yankees on Monday — he also addressed the team in a meeting — there are a number of Yankees who have enough football bona fides to find some common ground. Infielder Jace Peterson was a free safety at McNeese State, and the third-base coach Phil Nevin was a freshman all-American at Cal State Fullerton.
Then there were others who could have played in college: Pitcher C. C. Sabathia signed a letter of intent to play tight end at Hawaii; Jacoby Ellsbury, who returned six kickoffs for touchdowns in high school, was recruited by Oregon; and Sonny Gray was an accomplished quarterback growing up in Tennessee, where he had several scholarship offers before sticking with baseball at Vanderbilt.
But the two Yankees who most likely had the best chance to forge a career in football are the two who look the part — Stanton and Judge. Stanton is 6 feet 6 inches, 245 pounds, and Judge is 6-foot-7, 282 pounds. Both were star receivers in high school — coincidentally, each wore No. 2 — before dropping football in favor of a baseball career.
“They’d definitely be tight ends,” Wilson said.
“We have a running joke, me and Jimmy Graham, how he looks like Aaron Judge and how Judge looks like him,” Wilson added, referring to Seattle’s five-time Pro Bowl tight end. “I was telling Aaron earlier, Jimmy, I think, wore his jersey for Halloween.”
While Stanton was an elite baseball prospect at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., he did not catch the eye of college football recruiters until his senior season — when in the season opener he caught a touchdown pass and scored on the ensuing 2-point conversion to win the game, leaping above a defender for both balls.
Stanton took a recruiting visit to Southern California, attending a football game and having lunch over the weekend with Pete Carroll, then the U.S.C. football coach and now Wilson’s coach with the Seahawks. Carroll also came to watch Stanton play basketball.
“Mike was an excellent prospect in high school, and we knew he had a ton of potential,” Carroll said via email through a team spokesman. “We truly saw him as a multisport athlete, which is rare at that level. He was so good at both sports that we would have wanted him to play both if he came to ‘SC.’”
In his two years at Notre Dame — he transferred to the private school after spending two years at Verdugo Hills, a public school — Stanton played with at least 10 others who earned college scholarships. One of Stanton’s more memorable matchups came against one of Wilson’s teammates — the loquacious Richard Sherman.
What did Stanton remember about it?
“I just remember them kicking our butts,” said Stanton, whose team had its 35-game winning streak ended by Sherman’s Dominguez High School in a 41-14 route in the CIF-Southern Section Division III championship game. “They wore us down.”
“They were talking crap, but I didn’t put it to just Sherman,” added Stanton, who was sometimes matched up against Sherman. “They were all talking stuff because they were the inner-city school and we were the privileged school. I went to public school, too, so I know what they were feeling.”
Brandon Huffman, the national recruiting editor for 24/7 Sports, recalled how fast and fluid Stanton looked. “It was like he glided downfield,” Huffman said. “It didn’t look like he was that fast, but he had long strides. It was like watching a center fielder who knows how much ground he has to cover.”
Judge, like Stanton, was a three-sport standout, playing football, basketball and baseball in Linden, Calif., a Central Valley farming community just east of Stockton.
While Judge received recruiting interest from Notre Dame, Washington and U.C.L.A., he made it clear to most schools that he was interested in playing only baseball. A few, such as Eastern Michigan and Portland State, offered to let him play both, but Judge thought playing two sports — along with the academic challenges of college — would be too much, so he focused on baseball at Fresno State.
“I thought if I could find a place where I could just play baseball, that would be great,” he said.
Further dampening the idea of playing football was the fact that he might not have played receiver. Judge, who was a Cal fan — in part because his older brother John went to school there — attended a football camp in Berkeley before his senior season.
“They knew I enjoyed football, but that I had baseball on the mind,” Judge said. “The receiver coach said, ‘I like you, but we’ll bulk you up and put you at tight end, to be honest.’”
If that idea did not appeal to Judge at the time, he did not seem put off that Wilson viewed him as a tight end, figuring that Wilson would make him look good with a few passes.
Wilson did not have a football with him, but said he would by the end of the week. Just as he is showing off what he might do with a baseball bat in his hands, Judge and Stanton might be able to show what they can do with a football in theirs.
“You might catch us out on a backfield running some routes,” Judge said with a smile.
Outfielder Clint Frazier was found to have a concussion. He had complained of fogginess and a headache after crashing into the outfield wall twice in Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh. Frazier said Monday that he felt fine and would ride a stationary bike on Tuesday to determine if exercise would cause the symptoms to return.