Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Wilder Improves Draft Stock At FSU Pro Day

Florida State football held its Pro Day Tuesday, as the Seminoles welcomed representatives from all 32 NFL teams, including a few head coaches. For James Wilder Jr., it may as well have been called Redemption Day. And the FSU junior delivered.

Wilder turned in a disappointing 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine in late February, clocking in at 4.86 seconds. No one was more unsatisfied with that than Wilder: “I had a bad 40 at the combine. I just had to show them what I really run today. I ran a pretty good time today. One person told me 4.53, another person told me 4.56.”

Looking noticeably leaner, Wilder dropped weight between the Combine and today’s events, while not decreasing in power: “I did the bench press again, and I did the same thing, I did 18 reps like I did at the combine. But I weigh six pounds less, so I showed them I could lose weight and keep my strength at the same time. And then in my 40-yard dash, a ran a 4.8 at the combine, and here I ran a 4.5. . . . At the combine I did everything good. I did the jumping stuff good, the vert, great, it was really just my 40.” Wilder cited a change in his eating habits as the catalyst for his trimmed-down physique: “I’ve been eating salads, eating healthy.”

Wilder confessed to initially considering only running the 40, but participated much more, admitting that, “being competitive, seeing all my brothers out here doing stuff, it’s just hard to sit down and not do nothing until the 40-yard dash.” That familiar setting — along with some friendly faces — may have factored into Wilder’s improvement. When asked about performing with his teammates, he elaborated: “We’re brothers, so it’s like a family reunion here. . . . There’s always something extra when you feel like you’re with your brothers working out.” 

Wilder acknowledged that the 40-time, while one of the more hyped stats prior to the draft, is nonetheless inherently flawed: “I don’t think it’s like a game-like situation. We wear ’40 cleats’ that nobody’s gonna wear, no football, nobody’s chasing you. But if the coaches tell you to do it, you gotta do it. You gotta learn to adapt to what they want you to do.”

Still, he wanted to show that a 4.86 is far from indicative of his powerful yet agile athleticism: “I put a lot of pressure upon myself. I made goals for myself. I went to the combine, and I ran a 4.8. I stumbled out both times on my starts, but, I mean, that’s no excuse. . . . Talking to the coaches, they’re not worried about my strength. They wanted to see my position drills and the 40-yard dash. They want to see me with a little bit more loose hips, but they say overall, I did great, being a leader and cheering on my teammates.”

As for that steady diet of salads? Wilder ceded that it may be time for a bit of a reward:  “I think I’m gonna treat myself to a steak.”


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