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The man who carries the Bucs
Barry McDermott
October 29, 1984
Hapless Tampa Bay has the NFL's top rusher-receiver, James Wilder
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October 29, 1984

The Man Who Carries The Bucs

Hapless Tampa Bay has the NFL's top rusher-receiver, James Wilder

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At the University of Missouri, Wilder was a superb running back, but quiet. "I'd play my game and close myself up in my locker," he says. "Most people thought I was shy. I just said, 'Hey, I'm in college. I don't have to take criticism from the press.' " Then Wilder smiles and says, "Now I'd like them to write anything about me."

Even if the rest of the citizenry seems ignorant of his exploits, his teammates stand in awe of Wilder. Quarterback Steve DeBerg says, "He's the best back I've seen." Sean Farrell, a guard who blocked for Curt Warner at Penn State, adds, "The thing that makes him different is his exceptional strength. He's as strong as anybody on this team." And Scott Dierking, a veteran fullback who came to the Bucs from the New York Jets, compares Wilder's powerful, bounce-off-people running style to that of Jim Brown. Says Dierking, "He doesn't go down unless someone gets a good shot on him. He's always scrappin'. God doesn't make many bodies like that. You combine that with extreme competitiveness, plus being a nice guy, and you have a rare breed. And I've never seen a guy who can run the ball 40 times and still look as fresh as the rest of us who have done nothing."

In Wilder's file at Tampa Bay, there's a questionnaire that the running back has filled out. One of the queries on it is, "What don't you like about football?" Wilder answered, "Nothing." He says, "If there was something I didn't like about it, I'd walk away from the game."

As of now it looks like he'll run, not walk—right into the record books.

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