James Wilder Jr., has called it a career.
The Montreal Alouettes running back retired from football Thursday, making the formal announcement on social media.
“One of the hardest life decisions I’ve made in my life is retiring in my prime at 28 years old from the game I’ve been playing since I was 5,” Wilder tweeted. “I’m now ready for the next chapter in my life.
“@cfl I simply say thank you I’m forever grateful!”
Wilder added he’ll be the running backs coach at Henry B. Plant High School in Tampa, Fla. He’ll also reportedly run a fitness facility.
Earlier on Wednesday, Wilder suggested he’d grown weary of the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Can’t wait on the @cfl anymore, Gotta take care of the family!!” Wilder tweeted.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated the earliest an abbreviated ‘20 season would begin is September. But Ambrosie has also been adamant a cancelled campaign also remains possible.
The six-foot-three, 232-pound Wilder signed a one-year deal with Montreal in January after being released by the Toronto Argonauts. The Alouettes were looking to Wilder to help fill the void created by the departure of William Stanback — who ran for 1,048 yards last season — to the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders.
The personable and outgoing Wilder began his CFL career with Toronto in 2017 initially as a special-teams player. But he was named the league’s top rookie after rushing for 872 yards (7.2-yard average) and five TDs while adding 51 receptions for 533 yards.
He became a late-season starter as Toronto (9-9) capped the regular campaign by winning five of its last six regular-season games to finish atop the East Division. After dispatching the Saskatchewan Roughriders 25-21 in the conference final, the Argos upset the Calgary Stampeders 27-24 to capture the Grey Cup in their first season under head coach Marc Trestman.
Trestman was fired following the ‘18 season when Toronto (4-14) finished last in the East Division. But the Argos didn’t fare any better last year under Corey Chamblin, missing the CFL playoffs for a second straight season with an identical 4-14 mark.
Chamblin was also fired and replaced by Ryan Dinwiddie.
Wilder’s production also fell following Toronto’s Grey Cup campaign. He ran for 691 yards on 147 carries (4.7-yard average) with three TDs in 2018, then rushed for 464 yards on 92 attempts (5.0-yard average) and a TD last season.
Overall, Wilder appeared in 44 games with Toronto, rushing for 2,027 yards on 361 carries 5.6-yard average) with nine TDs. He added 154 catches for 1,487 yards and five touchdowns.
Wilder played his college career at Florida State, helping the Seminoles capture the 2014 NCAA title. The 28-year-old native of Tampa, Fla., was bypassed in the 2014 NFL draft but spent time with both the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills before heading to the CFL.
In April 2019, Wilder had a tryout with World Wrestling Entertainment. Prior to the session, Wilder admitted he spent as much time — maybe more — watching pro wrestling on television than his father, James Wilder Sr., carrying the football as a running back with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins (1981-90).
Wilder was also very active participating in peaceful protests in Houston, where he was training, following the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2020.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press