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Veteran Running Back James Wilder Jr Released by Edmonton Elks

Originally announced on his Twitter page on December 3rd,2022, veteran running back James Wilder Jr, indicated that he had been released by the Edmonton Elks.

When the news broke out by James Wilder Jr, there was no feedback from the Edmonton Elks following the tweet days after the mentioned release by James Wilder Jr.

So, on Wednesday, March 29th, 2023, the Edmonton Elks officially released the veteran running back. 

Florida State Football

During his High School days, his athletic ability would be on display with his versatility. During the 2009 season, James Wilder Jr would showcase his talent on both sides of the ball. During this season, he would run for 1,004 yards, and 15 touchdowns. On the defence, he was equally important. He would collect a total of 136 tackles, with 66 of them being solo tackles. What was impressive during that year was that James Wilder Jr also registered a total of 19 sacks.

James Wilder Jr would commit to Florida State after a stellar career at Henry B. Plant High School in his native Tampa, Florida. He would complete football days at Florida State with a total of 226 carries, 1,363 rushing yards, a 6.0 average yards per carry, and 20 touchdowns. In the receiving department, he would register a total of 24 receptions, for 182 yards, and 2 touchdowns.

Entering the National Football League as an Undrafted Free Agent

On May 12th, 2014, James Wilder Jr would sign with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent. Over two years, he would be waived, signed to the practice squad, and signed a future/reserve contract.

On January 20th, 2016, he would sign with the Buffalo Bills as a future/reserve contact. The stint would be short-lived in Buffalo. On September 2nd,2016, the Buffalo Bills would waive James Wilder Jr due to an injury. He would be officially released by the Buffalo Bills on September 27th, 2016.

Coming to Canada   

James Wilder Jr would sign with the Toronto Argonauts on March 14th, 2017. The signing was made a lot easier with then-head coach Marc Trestman with his multiple football ties on both sides of the border. More importantly, Marc Trestman’s connection to James Wilder Jr’s father James Wilder during his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After an injury to the then-starting running back Brandon Whittaker, James Wilder Jr would take the Canadian Football League by storm in his rookie season in CFL. He would complete the season winning the Most Outstanding Rookie Award. The season was bittersweet for James Wilder Jr as he was bounced around between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills respectively.  

In 17 games played during the 2017 season, he would contribute to the Argos’ success with 872 rushing yards on 122 carries, with 5 touchdowns, 51 receptions, and an additional 533 yards. He became an instant fan favourite when playing in Toronto. His versatility was paramount for the success of the Toronto Argonauts in 2017. He was a triple running back in which his bruising style runs, his great receiving ability, along with his great blocking in the backfield, was displayed that he was a special player in the CFL. Aside from contributing to the team’s success in 2017 in winning the Grey Cup; it was a play vs the Saskatchewan Roughriders late in the 4th Quarter of the game to keep a key drive alive. With 1:16 left in the game, on a 3rd and 5 play, Ricky Ray connected with James Wilder Jr in a key play to keep the Double Blue faithful alive with a 22-yard pass. Cody Fajardo would then complete the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak in the end zone. The Argos would complete the comeback with a 25-21 victory. The Argos’ defence would stall the Saskatchewan offence once with a fumble recovery to seal the deal.

The 2018 season would be the complete opposite as it was in 2017. The Argonauts were not able to shake off the Grey Cup hangover in 2018. James Wilder Jr, he still had a great season contributing with 691 rushing yards, and 3 touchdowns. In the receiving department, he would compile 533 receiving yards on 56 receptions and a lone touchdown. He would miss 5 games due to injury during the 2018 season.

He would also take a stand against the Toronto Argonauts in wanting to renegotiate his current contract. At the time, Wilder Jr was signed to an annual $56,000 contract. Factoring the physical abuse on his body in shouldering the load in the running game, he announced in 2018 that he would be willing to sit out as it was announced in late January 2028. The stand would pay off as he would be rewarded close to double his salary as he would now be awarded a $100,000 contract for the 2018 season. 

After the 2019 season with another productive season statistically, James Wilder Jr elected to be released by the Toronto Argonauts to pursue an NFL stint. His release was granted by the Toronto Argonauts on November 25th, 2019.

On January 30th, 2020 James Wilder Jr would sign a 1-year contract with the Montreal Alouettes. It would be short-lived. With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting its infancy stride, James Wilder Jr would announce retirement in June 2020. His decision was made due to the uncertainty of not having a CFL season in 2020. He would take up a coaching position back at his high school alma mater.

On February 9th, 2021, James Wilder Jr would sign with the Edmonton Elks after coming out from his brief retirement. Although he would contribute offensively with 770 rushing yards, and 2 touchdowns, with 226 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, the physical beating was displayed. The Elks would complete 2021 with a dismal 3-11 CFL shorten season. It was the worse team record in franchise history. The offensive line was unable to open holes for the running game regularly during the 2021 season. And it showed whoever was carrying the ball in the backfield. It was like a running back was running into a wall on almost every running play.  

Then the Worse Happened

James Wilder Jr would come to terms with a 1-year contract extension for the 2022 season.  

In a week 3 tilt with the Calgary Stampeders, the Elks would lose by their Provincial Rivals 30-23 in a game that the Elks let slip away. More importantly, James Wilder Jr would be lost for the remainder of the season due to a neck injury. It was the ultimate blow to the Edmonton Elks. In order to continue playing, doctors advised James Wilder Jr that surgery would be required.

Fast forward to March 29th, 2023, and the Edmonton Elks officially announced the release of the services by James Wilder Jr.

James Wilder Jr’s Health is the Priority

For James Wilder Jr, it is time for him to fully heal rather than continue to play football at the moment. Nobody can argue his approach to the game in which he plays in a very physical way. With that said, injuries are inevitable. When it comes to anything involving a head or neck injury, it will have to be treated with a lot more caution and healing time. There is no doubt that James Wilder Jr still has the fire inside to compete at a high level. With that said, he is smart enough to know that there is more to life than football. What James Wilder Jr needs to do is take the time needed, and not come back to football prematurely to cause any significant re-occurring injury, or to make the current injury non-recoverable. Football will always be part of the life of James Wilder Jr. It is time to spend time with his loving family. James Wilder Jr has always been in tip-top shape. His training and work ethic speaks for themselves. Take all the time you need at this given time Mr. Wilder Jr. Football will still be here for you.

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Dino Sepe Reporter
Dino Sepe has been an avid sports fan since he was nine years old. He has read multiple books regarding sports history from various eras, the origins of the game, great dynasties, great coaches, and great players. Dino's experience in writing was obtained at Humber College in Toronto, Ontario through the Theater Performance program. As an avid football fan following the NFL, CFL, NCAA, and USports Football, Dino has been writing about the Canadian Football League in various capacities since 2019. In December 2021, Dino joined the CFL News Hub team. Dino is proud to be part of the CFL News Hub contributing team and looks forward to covering the Edmonton Elks going into the future.
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