September 5, 2012 - by
Running With a New Purpose

By Scott Kotick (@ScottKotick),

It’s easy to look on the field and only see the finished product. If a wide receiver makes a remarkable catch, he gets the glory. And if a running back breaks tackles on his way to end zone, oohs and ahhs resound throughout the stadium.

But there’s more than just that fleeting moment. It’s a product of countless hours of work. As James Wilder, Jr. entered fall camp, he knew he had to become a more complete football player and let that work shine above all else.

“He’s in a great place and I think he’s seeing the world in a good way,” head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He’s doing well in school and in everything he’s doing, his mind is clear, and he’s a heck of a young man. He’s a good teammate.”

“That made me a better man, and being a better player, I feel like I’m quicker, faster, and stronger,” Wilder said. “I know the playbook more, and I used to not know it that much. I mastered the playbook, the blocking schemes, and everything that’s going on.”

And fans got to see the first glimpse of the new James Wilder, Jr. this past Saturday against Murray State. He scored two touchdowns, eclipsed the 100 yard mark for the first time in his career, and was awarded the game ball.

But that’s all pales in comparison to everything he worked on in the off season. The old James Wilder was one dimensional as a powerful running back. Now, he’s a blocker, pass protector, great route runner, and most importantly, a great teammate.

“What he’s doing now are the little things,” Fisher said. “You can depend on him in pass protection, this check, that check, really grasping the whole offense.”

“To know that you helped in that long run or catching a ball in the flats, just to know you helped,” Lonnie Pryor. “It’s not all about me, it’s about helping your team win and do things.”

“I have team goals first, and as long as we’re winning and as long as we’re getting the job done, that’s my main priority right now,” Wilder said. “When my number is called and it’s my opportunity, I got out there and do what I can.”

And what Wilder can do is run. And use that 6’2, 226 pound frame to get yards and be that dominating college running back.

“Every time he touches the ball, he’s guaranteed at least four yards,” Pryor said. “It doesn’t matter if someone’s in the backfield, he’s guaranteed to at least get positive yards with the first contact.”

“People ask me why I like running back because running backs always get hit,” Wilder said. “I’m the type of person who believes that as a running back, you hit him before they hit you.”

“He’s like a kid at Christmas, he really is,” Fisher said. “When game time comes and in practice, he’s just got a smile on his face and he’s at home when he’s doing it.”

Every game truly is like a holiday to Wilder, who cherishes each moment in practice, the classroom, and on Saturdays. In every snap, in every block, and in every touchdown, he’s running with a new purpose.

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