Argos RB James Wilder Jr. delivers message of hope (and a big cheque) to Covenant House

Mark Zwolinski, Toronto Star

 Toronto Argonauts running back James Wilder Jr. chatted with youth at Covenant House this week, talking about life experience and self-motivation.

And Wilder isn’t lacking any of either. He just went through an off-season of uncertainty. A contract dispute with Argos management led him to unveil every penny of his contract and living expenses, which he shared over his Twitter account, @IAm_Wilder32.

Wilder, the CFL’s rookie of the year, made just over $50,000 last year and said it was eaten up by rent, food and travel. That doesn’t work with a wife (Bianca) and four children under five (daughters Nala and Carter and sons Jaylen and Evan).

He also claimed to have opportunities in the NFL but, contractually, he had to put in a second year with the Argos before he could pursue them. Wilder threatened to sit out the season.

In the end, he negotiated a new two-year deal with Toronto worth more than $110,000, and he’ll try to pick up where he left off last year, when he averaged a CFL-best 7.1 yards average per carry and helped the Argos to a Grey Cup title.

His return started at Covenant House. As one of the Shaw top performers, along with Hamilton receiver Brandon Banks and Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly, Wilder was able to select one of the three charities to share $50,000 from Shaw Communications. The running back selected the homeless youth agency.

What was the message you wanted to convey when you spoke at Covenant House?

Everyone is not dealt the same hand in life. We are all different, and some of us are more fortunate than others. We know life is not fair, and it can be unfortunate, but it’s all about making the best of your situation … Use your situation, whatever it is, as motivation. My situation isn’t as serious as some of the kids (at Covenant House). But in every situation where things don’t go your way, you have to take advantage of that, of what we have in life, and use it to do better.

How do you relate to these kids who have nothing and are living in a shelter?

I was there with my second mother, I lived with her and her family for two-and-a-half years during high school. Some of that is the same for these kids.

In the past I was in a jail cell (he was arrested for resisting an officer, for failing a breath alcohol test and violating his probation, and for missing a court date caused by driving with a suspended licence) and I had to make decisions about life. I couldn’t use jail as an excuse. I had to make the best of my situation, then, now, and to the end of my life. I told those kids that when you have your vision, you have to see it through, don’t let anyone tell you you’re not going to make it. When I was in jail, back in my college days, people were telling me it’s over, you’re done, you’ll never be a pro football player, just forget it.

So I feel I can talk to kids now and grab their attention. They see, OK, he didn’t come from a perfect household, he didn’t have a perfect life. There was a connection there, and the kids opened up about their lives.

What did you do this off-season to get better?

I always keep in touch with my dad (James Wilder, the franchise rushing leader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), with guys who’ve been there and done that. My best friend is Devonta Freeman (a two-time Pro Bowl running back with the Atlanta Falcons) and we talk about consistency in everything we do. You see guys who go crazy for one year, then you don’t hear about them anymore. What I’ve strived for this off-season is consistency. One of the things I’ve been doing that is new is training with my helmet on, catching passes with my helmet on, to get that feeling of consistency.

And I’m eating healthy, or healthier. My wife is a great cook but I was telling her about (the nutritionists in Toronto) and that, maybe, there’s a bit too much butter in our food. Those (nutritionists) know what’s good for you, so meal prep is different for me now, they’re making meals for me here, and I’m taking in the right calories, carbs and proteins at the right times. I feel like that kind of stuff will help me get to the next level.

Your off-season was a roller-coaster ride, especially when you laid out your financial details and said you were prepared to sit out the 2018 season. What happened there?

It was pretty interesting, partly because a lot of Americans (in the CFL) are on the same contract I had, and I had multiple guys DM’ing me and saying thank you. I didn’t know I spoke for so many guys in the league. Some of those guys didn’t want to speak out, but I don’t mind that. I’m not speaking like a millionaire, I just thought it would be better for people to understand exactly where I’m coming from. I got a lot of hate mail from Canadian fans, saying I was disrespecting the CFL, but once I explained it all (in a series of tweets), they got back to me and said they understood.

It was like the same thing I told those kids at Covenant House … life isn’t fair, but you make that stand for yourself, and sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. I felt what I did was something that needed to be done, and maybe people will see CFL players in a better light now.

How close were you to not coming back to Toronto?

It was really close. It started with my agent saying let me call so-and-so in the NFL … If I was in the NFL, (it) would have been my fourth year in that league, and my league minimum would have been like $620,000. That can be life-changing for my family. I said I can’t go through another (CFL) season (at $35,000). It wasn’t a contract negotiation, it was me speaking about my situation. I talked to my family about it, I had a job opportunity and it was a lot more than what the CFL was offering, but I had to commit to that job for more than a year. That’s where it all started. I’ve been playing football since I was a kid, and I never sat out a season. But as a father in a house and in a family, you have to look at things from all angles. I love football, but family is first.”

We hear you will now become a full-time resident of Toronto.

Yes, I live here now, I moved here April 1, but I’ll live here in the offseason. That’s why finances are important. I want to give my wife and kids the best life I can, a comfortable life. We’re not millionaires, and some people understand it, some don’t. But I love it here, I love the city, and I’m just super excited to get back and get the season going, All our guys are.”

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64 Comments on Argos RB James Wilder Jr. delivers message of hope (and a big cheque) to Covenant House

  1. Michael Kulyk // May 14, 2018 at 9:28 am //

    once your wife and kids are emmigrated to canada u wont have to pay for their healthcare costs which could eat up a big part of your salary

    • Yeah but, his electric bill, courtesy of Ontario’s corrupt government, will eat up his salary.

    • But he probably has a health insurance plan in the US, Obama care, which can be cheaper than paying into our system (taxes)
      Our health care system is not “free” it’s paid through high income taxes, national taxes (HST ETC)
      If you are unemployed or poor in the US you get MEDICADE (free health care)
      If you are over 65 you get MEDICARE
      If you are an NFL player or work for any decent company you get medical paid for or deductions from your pay.

      So you are wrong healthcare costs won’t eat up a big part of your salary in the US unless you are self-employed or decide to opt out.
      Do some research before posting!!!

    • Mattiegtran // May 15, 2018 at 12:03 pm //

      I̟ j̟u̟s̟t̟ b̟e̟g̟a̟n̟ a̟ m̟o̟n̟t̟h̟ a̟n̟d̟ a̟ h̟a̟l̟f̟ b̟a̟c̟k̟ a̟n̟d̟ I̟’v̟e̟ g̟o̟t̟t̟e̟n̟ 2 c̟h̟e̟c̟k̟ f̟o̟r̟ a̟n̟ a̟g̟g̟r̟e̟g̟a̟t̟e̟ o̟f̟ $3,200…t̟h̟i̟s̟ i̟s̟ t̟h̟e̟ b̟e̟s̟t̟ c̟h̟o̟i̟c̟e̟ I̟ s̟e̟t̟ a̟s̟i̟d̟e̟ a̟ f̟e̟w̟ m̟i̟n̟u̟t̟e̟s̟! “M̟u̟c̟h̟ t̟h̟a̟n̟k̟s̟ t̟o̟ y̟o̟u̟ f̟o̟r̟ g̟i̟v̟i̟n̟g̟ m̟e̟ t̟h̟i̟s̟ r̟e̟m̟a̟r̟k̟a̟b̟l̟e̟ c̟h̟a̟n̟c̟e̟ t̟o̟ p̟r̟o̟f̟i̟t̟ f̟r̟o̟m̟ h̟o̟m̟e̟. T̟h̟i̟s̟ a̟d̟d̟i̟t̟i̟o̟n̟a̟l̟ m̟o̟n̟e̟y̟ h̟a̟s̟ c̟h̟a̟n̟g̟e̟d̟ m̟y̟ l̟i̟f̟e̟ i̟n̟ s̟u̟c̟h̟ a̟ v̟a̟r̟i̟e̟t̟y̟ o̟f̟ w̟a̟y̟s̟, e̟x̟p̟r̟e̟s̟s̟ g̟r̟a̟t̟i̟t̟u̟d̟e̟ t̟o̟w̟a̟r̟d̟ y̟o̟u̟!”
      ░A░M░A░Z░I░N░G░ ░J░O░B░S░
      ═══► m­­­a­­­r­­­s­­­s­­­m­­­a­­­r­­­t­­­.c­­­o­­­mᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵ

  2. Nice piece. Wilder has an opportunity to build on his assets and (along with his teammates and other supporting cast) make his mark in Toronto [on and off the field].

  3. Where's Shultz? // May 14, 2018 at 9:42 am //

    Regardless, the guy is very irresponsible to have 4 kids before he had the means to support them.

    • Thanks Negative Nancy. Should I run my life choices by you as well? You seem to know it all.

  4. Doug Mc Clintock // May 14, 2018 at 9:51 am //

    I wish James Wilder the very best in his 2nd year with the Argos. You are an exciting player to watch, you have that capability of strength running with the ball, always going just a little further !You could be a great Argo if you have a healthy body to take all the punishment !

  5. Mr Red. // May 14, 2018 at 10:26 am //

    This is the type of thing pro athletes should do………….Duron we’re looking at you

    • Ya, because Duran wasn’t pretty much the first guy to promise money to the survivors and families of the Humboldt Broncos.
      Take a hike ya wanker.

      • Mr Red. // May 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm //

        Promise money? He didn’t promise money. He promised to “donate every TD” to Humboldt. Whatever that means.

    • Ridersrule // May 14, 2018 at 11:27 am //

      Roy finch we are looking at you

      • Mr Red. // May 14, 2018 at 12:01 pm //

        Instead of focusing on Finch why not look at BLM, Alex Singleton, Corey Mace…..all these guys have their own charities.

        • Ridersrule // May 14, 2018 at 12:53 pm //

          Oh kinda like you focusing on riders and ex riders on a story clearly about an Argo player. . We all realize your undying love for the riders but not every story is about them .

    • Lancaster/Reed // May 14, 2018 at 1:02 pm //

      Way to ruin a positive story of a cfl player giving back to his community, by turning it into yet another anti rider tantrum. You are the ultimate example of a no-class, giant heap of excrement. You really are just a horrible person. Zero redeeming qualities.

      • I agree, the Argos did the right thing and Wilder is paying back to his community.
        The Argos need the exposure in the GTA, good for him.

    • Argo story – FOCUS !!!

  6. Blackhawk89 // May 14, 2018 at 10:26 am //

    Maybe he should think about putting his degree from Florida State to use…. oh wait… he didn’t finish

    • Bang on. Christina Suggs lost her teaching job at Florida State because she refused to give James Wilder Jr favoritism over other students and would not pad his grades. Despite the fact he regularly missed classroom assignments and refused to put in the work. Wilder is now and has forever been a spoiled, entitled punk.

    • If you had dome more research you would find out that Wilder does have a family business in Tampa, a line of clothing, and he is a motivational speaker.
      He would have had that to fall back on.

  7. Glad to hear Wilder and his family made the move to Toronto. A big commitment to the Argos, his career, family and Canada as many others have made over the years after playing and living there.

  8. Riders34 // May 14, 2018 at 10:53 am //

    Good for Wilder and best of luck to him in the up coming season . However once again I take issue with 3dn nations lack of professional writing. Wilder as done nothing exceptional regarding his humanitarianism IMO. NONE of the check obviously came out of his POCKET directly , even if Wilder would of added $200 to his portion of the Corporate donation from Shaw ( and congratulations SHAW for this large donation on behalf of the selected players performances ) the story would of been more meaningful IMO. Again Wilde r IMO is playing the POOR me card , and with an ex-NFL dad , I would speculate that he is likely better of then most in the states. Sorry Wilder till ya actually donate even a large portion of your time in working with these kids , or some other agency or give $100 to a foundation your more a ZERO then a hero to me. More a whiney I need more $$$ I was screwed kind of guy , if a extremely average guy like Mac Henry earning the league minimum can donate $5000 to a inner city school , you MR. Wilder IMO can afford to poney up a couple hundred when earning double the bread!!!! Again 3dn nation write about his football acumen and accomplishments all ya want , be a fan of wilder etc , but don’t try to make a Saint Out of a apparently very me first selfish man !!!!!! Unless that is how Ontario people role !!! being very insincere and transparent!!!

    • Mr Red. // May 14, 2018 at 11:14 am //

      Same for Carter. He comes from a family of privilege, demands much attention and accolades, yet does NOTHING for the community. Before your start criticizing Wilder, look in your own back yard.

      • As I said above Carter was one of the first to donate to survivors of the Humboldt Bronco tragedy.
        Perhaps you should look in your own backyard.
        At least when he gets busted he doesn’t pull a “Roy Finch”. Where do the Stamps get these clowns ?

        • Mr Red. // May 14, 2018 at 11:54 am //

          What did he donate? Every TD he scores this season? Please, what does that even mean?
          Did Carter come to the community and offer to help? Did he cook food? Offer whatever services he could?
          This is EXACTLY what I’m talking about with this guy. He does nothing and gets praised like a noble prize candidate.

        • Mr Red. // May 14, 2018 at 11:55 am //

          BLM does a lot of charity work and has his own charitable foundations. So does Alex Singleton.

          • It’s great that Bo does charity work, kudos to him. He has a charity named Mitchell’s Miracle Day.
            OK mouth breather please name all the other charitable foundations You claim Bo has.
            Also please name Alex Singleton’s charitable foundations.

          • What I really like about Bo is the fact that he himself will be contributing to the Humboldt Bronco fund, depending upon how many TD passes he throws to Duron.

          • Argo story – Not Bo mevi or bouncin and behavin hair – FOCUS !!

        • Mr Red. // May 14, 2018 at 3:31 pm //

          Jim
          I’d love to know your expectations this year. How many pick 6’s of Carter on Bo do you expect this season?

        • Mr Red. // May 14, 2018 at 3:35 pm //

          lol before I name another for BLM, why don’t you name 1 for Carter.
          Alex Singleton is highly involved with the Special Olympics. Keep in mind this is separate from any Calgary Stampeder mandated charities.

          • You know he’s involved with the special Olympics because you most certainly are part of them you misogynistic pig.

      • Argo Story – FOCUS

    • bigboypants // May 14, 2018 at 11:25 am //

      How many Rider fans 1st on here? Worry bout your own crybaby.

    • He’s not playing the “poor me” card he fought for a higher salary and good for him. It’s not right that he should be paid a rookie salary the same as an O-lineman or backup special teams player.
      He was the CFL rookie of the year and the main reason why the Argos got the Grey Cup. Good for him for fighting this stupid rule and good for the Argos for paying him his worth !!!

  9. Doug Mc Clintock // May 14, 2018 at 11:20 am //

    Such NEGATIVE comments out there, the old phrase, if you can’t say anything GOOD about a person, don’t say nothing ! Please be my guest and throw the first stone. This is a supposed football sport comment post. Lets keep it that way and leave the personal stuff alone !

  10. Doug Mc Clintock // May 14, 2018 at 12:10 pm //

    Re Christopher….. I am an Argo Fan ! CFL history might be made this year with Ricky Ray going for a Grey Cup win this year ! If he does it will be his 5th Grey Cup ring !Last year was a good one for him, passing for over 5000 yards and over 60000 total !
    And hot news the Argos have signed QB Noah Picton

    • Doug – if you are an Argo fan and follow them closely you will see that the Argos have SIX QBs in camp. Five of them are proven, experienced QBs. Ray and Franklin are number 1 and 2 no doubt. The other three guys are big QBs, two are over 6’4″ and 220 lbs.
      Good luck to Picton but he doesn’t have a hope, think he returns to the CIS for another year.
      Good experience for him.

  11. As an Argos fan I wish they’d called his bluff and let him sit at home on his couch.

    Quality Import RBs are a dime a dozen. It’s the second easiest position to fill in the CFL – – KR being the easiest.

    Completely agree with the comments above that Jim Wilder has always been a pampered little prima donna – – and a mediocre football player at best.

    Some of the posters who struggle with reading comprehension failed to realize that it Wilder didn’t donate any of his own money – – he simply dropped off a cheque from Shaw Communications.

    Being a delivery boy/bicycle courier is a more appropriate career for Wilder than being a pro football player is.

  12. 2017 Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts – how sweet it is!!!!!

  13. What did any of the Stamps do beyond what their contract stipulates? I’ll tell you Red – jack sh*t. And I’m a Stamps fan. God you’re an embarrassment to us all.

  14. How’s Roy’s prison cell Red? Have you gone to visit him yet? Have you put money in his canteen for him? Finch represents you perfectly actually, you both have no moral compass and continue to pretend to be above everyone. Just a couple losers! Haha.

    • Mr Red. // May 14, 2018 at 7:42 pm //

      He’s doing well. Doing well in his program. Fully expect to see him playing against the riders this July in a routine win.

      • Duececoupe // May 14, 2018 at 8:08 pm //

        Oh really , stamps are willing to hire players with a background like his . Very very desperate. Will he wear the ankle bracelet in games . Should the riders dress up like police so he can resist them

      • Lancaster/Reed // May 15, 2018 at 12:51 am //

        In mr ed’s world, having twice been caught with an individual amount of marijuana (30g) is a much more serious crime than assaulting a police officer, reckless driving while high on marijuana, and 2 seperate counts of posession of a dangerous substance. Its pretty clear who finch’s smoking partner is while in calgary.

        • Mr Red. // May 15, 2018 at 12:56 am //

          Of course you fail to mention all to DV offenders on the riders

          • Lancaster/Reed // May 15, 2018 at 1:14 am //

            And how is that at all relevent to who is in bigger legal jeopardy? Duron Carter or Finch? Typical coward move. Losing an argument? Change the topic.

  15. Doug Mc Clintock // May 14, 2018 at 7:23 pm //

    I will admit that an athlete’s personal life affects how the public sees him ! All that ability will not erase their past ! They are under the magnify glass and can’t hide it !

  16. Mr Red. // May 14, 2018 at 8:58 pm //

    Word out of the crown’s office is Carter faces 1 year and loses his right to work in Canada.

    • Green&Gold // May 14, 2018 at 9:12 pm //

      Stay on topic. Its getting old.

    • Heard out of Roys prison cell: “I’m too small to be in this damn place, and getting sick and tired of being everybody’s Luffa sponge”

      • Mr Red. // May 14, 2018 at 11:39 pm //

        Do you condone Carter’s decision to knock over Rick Campbell?
        There is no reason to think he won’t do something similar again

    • Word out of manyhandles therapists office – “that guy is absolutely batshit crazy. Never experience a loon like him EVER in my 30 years in practice”

    • Lancaster/Reed // May 15, 2018 at 1:16 am //

      I would place a bet with you on who will play in canada again sooner, carter or finch, but since you have a history of not honouring bets, whats the point?

  17. Green&Gold // May 14, 2018 at 9:13 pm //

    Stay on topic. Its getting old.

  18. Doug – if you are an Argo fan and follow them closely you will see that the Argos have SIX QBs in camp. Five of them are proven, experienced QBs. Ray and Franklin are number 1 and 2 no doubt. The other three guys are big QBs, two are over 6’4″ and 220 lbs.
    Good luck to Picton but he doesn’t have a hope, think he returns to the CIS for another year.
    Good experience for him.

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