Florida State University RB James Wilder Jr. Blazing His Own Trail to the NFL

Leading Tampa Plant High School to the 5A state title game, James Wilder Jr. was considered by many publications both a 5-star running back and linebacker. Though Wilder committed to Florida State University to play his college ball, he was still very non-committal about what position he would play for the Seminoles.  At 6’2” 229 Lbs. he possessed prototypical size for the linebacker position and pressure to make the transition to the defensive side of the ball continued to mount. He later came to the realization that carrying the football was his first love and opted to concentrate on playing the running back position full-time.

James WilderWhile he has split carries for the majority of his career at Florida State, he has made his presence felt as a runner, catching passes out of the backfield and in pass protection.  Looking back on his three seasons at Florida State he is well accomplished and thought of as a leader in the Seminole’s locker room. With that said, he’s also had his fair share of trouble to overcome early in his collegiate career.

Wednesday Feb. 2nd 2012, an officer arrived at the home of Bianca Carmada, (Wilder’s girlfriend) to serve an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court.  The young student allowed the officer to enter the apartment where he took Carmada into custody.  He attempted to explain to the arresting officer that Carmada received a text from her attorney that could potentially explain the confusion surrounding the perceived missed court date.

Wilder allegedly became more forceful and would not allow officers to apprehend Carmada subsequently pushing an officer.  As a result of making contact with an officer, the then 19-year-old James Wilder Jr.. was also arrested and charged with obstructing a law enforcement officer without violence and battery. Today he reflects on the mistakes he’s made and how his father, former NFL running back, James Wilder Sr. has helped him.

Wilder Jr. said; “My father always relates things to football. He told me, that was 1st down, you lost two yards now you have to focus on 2nd down.” He would go on to say; “All I can do is focus on moving forward I can’t change the past. I’m going to be honest with (NFL) teams and let them know that I’ve grown from the mistakes I made when I was 19-years-old and I definitely won’t make them again.” Not only did his father counsel him during the hard times off the field but he also serves as a mentor on the field as well.

In 1981, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected the 6’3” 225 Lbs. James Wilder Sr. who played 10 years in the NFL, which is fairly uncommon for larger backs.  He also made All-Pro in 1984. When asked about his very own elusiveness in the open field Wilder Jr. stated; “The number one thing me and my father talk about is to not take shots, and if you do take a shot, how to absorb it.  My father played 10 years in the NFL as a big back and I want to have a long career as well.”  Though the NFL combine was much different, when his father was entering the NFL it didn’t stop him from picking his father’s brain for advice on what to expect. Wilder Jr. went on to say; “I ask my father about everything because he’s been through it.”

He was asked what he wanted to achieve at the combine when he stated; “I just want to try to be the best at everything.” I was able to follow up and ask what he hopes to run in the 40-yard dash and he said; “I’m aiming for that 4.4. I believe I’m going to surprise a lot of people with a 4.4, right now they got me at a 4.6.”

While he’s endured some adversity albeit self inflicted, James Wilder Jr. appears to have grown from his earlier troubles. He continues to seek his father’s advice on and off the field, which has helped him become the player he is today. Though he is certainly proud of his father’s accomplishments and all he has done in the NFL make no mistake about it, James Wilder Jr. is looking to make a name of his own and it starts this week at the 2014 NFL Combine.

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