James Wilder Jr. and Father Grew Closer During Early Struggles at FSU

It’s not easy being the son of a former NFL player, especially when you play the same position as your father.  Sure, it can open doors, but it can also create lofty expectations.

For former Florida State and Plant High School running back James Wilder Jr., the son of Buccaneer great, James Wilder, trying to live up to those expectations hasn’t always been easy.

Thankfully, the two share a tight bond, something the younger Wilder came to appreciate even more when he encountered some legal issues early on during his time in Tallahassee.

As a freshman, Wilder was arrested for assaulting a police officer in Tallahassee. Then he violated the terms of his probation. There would also be an arrest for a missed court date and driving with a suspended license. Those three arrests in less than a year nearly cost him his college career.  His father stuck by his side.

“‘Just keep moving forward,'” Wilder Jr. said of his father’s advice. “He likes to take life situations and give them a football aspect. ‘That was first down. You’ve got to focus on second down. You lost two yards on the first down, you’ve got to focus on the second down. Looking back can cause you to crash your car.'”

Thankfully, he didn’t look back. Otherwise he might have missed the opportunity of a lifetime — to help lead the Noles to an undefeated season and a BCS National Championship this past year, the third in school history. In 2013 he rushed for 563 yards on 81 carries, finishing with an impressive 7.0 yards per carry.

He has another golden opportunity Tuesday at his FSU pro day, which could move him one step closer towards realizing his NFL dream. He’ll need to improve his 40-yard dash from last month’s combine, in which he clocked a disappointing 4.86.

It’s also a chance to reaffirm to all those watching that he’s grown off the field and is a better person now because of it.

“It was a mistake that I made when I was 19 years old. It was a mistake that I definitely have grown from, a mistake that I’ve moved from…I’ve definitely matured from then to now.”