In addition to today's story, here are a few extra thoughts from Buffalo Bills running back James Wilder Jr. He's aiming to make a name for himself in Buffalo's backfield...
On having his family with him in Buffalo: “Fighting for a job. It’s motivation every day. Most players in my situation fighting for a job will keep their families back home but it’s motivation for me. As I wake up in the morning, they’re right there in bed. As I wake up, I know what I’m fighting for. It reminds me who I’m providing for. I’m feeding the family with what I’m doing, so it’s a big motivation. I have a picture in the locker room. Having them up here is a big difference. It’s more motivating for me.”
On looking up to his Dad: “When people ask who do you look up to, most say ‘Adrian Peterson, Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson.’ I’m just like, ‘My Dad.’ I’ve been popping his tape in before DVD’s. VCR’s. I’ve been watching him. His game tape. And for Father’s Day, NFL Films made me his own little highlight film. All of his highlights. It’s great. I got him a highlight film for Father’s Day. I watch it and I’m amazed that’s my Dad. I get so many tips and so many connections and mentors in my life just through his name being raised in Tampa. Tony Dungy, he’s a great speaker. Knowing him personally and actually getting to talk to him in his home — 1 on 1, no cameras or anything — he knows so much about life and about football. And my Dad, being at the same position in the NFL for 10 years, same height, same weight, you don’t really see that too much. Running backs going for 10 years. Him being a starter and going to Pro Bowls, he knows what it takes. So I’m like a sponge with him. Everything he says, I’m soaking it in.”
On his roller-coaster football life: “The ups and downs. Keep going. Even as a kid, going to youth football, it was ‘That’s Wilder’s son, that’s Wilder’s son,’ to being No. 1 in the nation, to being on a major college football team and winning the national championship. Having the ups and downs and off-the-field issues. Back to a low. Winning a championship, back to a high. Undrafted, back to a low. Practice squad, even lower. Practice squad again, even lower. But I’m back to be on a rise, man. Who the Buffalo Bills have now is someone who’s going to give their all for the organization, for the teammates and for the fans. We owe it to them. The fans here are crazy. We walk into Tops, stores and they know who they are. You wouldn’t expect them to know who I am yet. I haven’t made a mark in the NFL yet. But when you walk into Tops and they’re calling you by your name, it’s like ‘Man, these fans here know what’s up.’ And doing a lot of community things, the fans here are stoked. They love it.”
On competing with his old friend, Karlos Williams: “Yeah, but it’s always been like that. Remember, at Florida State, we were both in the running back room so we’ve always been like that. It’s never been butting heads or anything like that. When I was at Florida State, I’d poke fun at him. He was my back-up and when I first came here he messed with me a little bit. He said, ‘I see tables have turned! You’re going to be my back-up now.’ We can laugh about stuff like that.
"I can send him those tweets. Anybody else calls him fat, he’s going to lose it. I can call him fat because we’re like brothers. And every day I call him fat. We’re at his house every day. We bring the kids over. So if we’re at his house and he says, ‘Hey, let’s go to Mo’s…’ — any little thing that’s not a salad or something — I’m like, ‘Dang, fat boy!’ I’m always on him. We’ve always been competitive like that. ... I’m like, ‘Hey, if you stay fat and I start balling, don’t get mad at me if tables turn!’ It’s never beef. We’re both from Central Florida. We’re 30 minutes from each other in Florida and two minutes from each other now. We stayed in the same apartment together in college. Our families are close. My fiancé and his fiancé are always hanging out. Our kids and their kids hang out all the time. So I can make those fat jokes to him all the time.”
On what it means for him to provide for his family with them all here: “Going back to high school, I drove her car. We’ve been together since middle school and have been living together since high school. She’s been paying all the bills. She’s been paying my phone bills. She was a manager at Publix and she quit all of that to come to Tallahassee with me. So she’s been following my dream. She’s been my trooper and now it’s my time to provide. That’s my fiancé. We have children together and I have to be the man of the house. I always tell her, ‘I don’t want you to work.’ ... She has never once complained about my career, about moving, about how much I’m gone from the kids and stuff like that. We keep each other driven.”
On wanting to stick long term in Buffalo: "I’m so pushed to stay here for the family. If I ball, I don’t have to keep the family moving. She found friends in Cincinnati and my daughter found friends in Cincinnati and now she has to move. I want to get situation. I want to be situated somewhere where she doesn’t have to keep moving. It’s not convenient. So having them up here is motivating for me. If I ever get back to where I was—which I won’t—to a depressed state, I can wake up in the morning to them like ‘They’re here. This is who I’m doing it for. C’mon, James, snap out of it. Let’s get this money today, let’s grind today, let’s put in extra work today.’ Because I see them right there. I wake up to them all the time."