James Wilder Sr. attended Sikeston High School in the mid-’70s, playing football and setting rushing records. During the 1976 season, the senior running back rushed for a school-record of 1,382 yards (now 9th in school history) and 2,277 career rushing yards (now 8th in school history) while helping to lead the charge for the Bull-Dogs to an undefeated season and their first conference title in 8 years. He went to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College for a year before heading to play college football at the University of Missouri in 1978, where he played with Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow and was given the nickname “the Sikeston Train”. Wilder played in 34 regular-season games, rushing 487 times for 2357 yards, 22 touchdowns and catching 59 passes for 412 yards and 2 touchdowns for the Tigers helping them to three consecutive Bowl games.
Drafting the Wild One:
In 1981 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were looking to add to their running game that already showcased 1979 star running back Ricky Bell, so they selected James Wilder Sr. with the 34th pick of the second round. He played with the Buccaneers from 1981-1989 but did not really get off to a great start until 1984. In his first three seasons, he combined for a total of 1,334 yards on 351 carries and scored 11 touchdowns. However, in 1984 it all changed.
The season of Change:
During week 5 of the 1984 season at home against the Green Bay Packers, Wilder Sr. rushed 43 times for 172 yards and tied with Giants running back Butch Woolfolk, who achieved that number in 1983, for a then NFL record for the most carries in a single game, and he surpassed his previous career-high of 42 attempts which he had the year prior against the Steelers.
(Video obtained with Exclusive Rights from BucPower.com)
Number 32 was a very good player during his nine-seasons with the Buccaneers finishing his Buc-Career carrying the ball a franchise-record 1,575 times for franchise-record 5,957 yards, 37 touchdowns (second in franchise history behind Mike Alstott’s 58), catching 430 passes (second in franchise history) for 3,492 yards, and 9 touchdowns.
I remember going to Tampa Stadium, aka the Big Sombrero, and hearing the song, “Born to be Wild!” playing over the stadium speakers and singing along after Wilder broke a big play or scored! Wilder was a fan favorite where ever he went, and one of my favorites to watch. I would like to personally thank him for all he did for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It is time to put him into the Ring of Honor.