Buccaneers: Who will be the next Ring of Honor inductee?
James Wilder, to me, seems like the undeniable choice here. Despite playing on some of the worst teams in franchise history – and that’s saying something – Wilder was the lone bright spot for the Buccaneers for the duration of his career. Wilder played nine seasons in Tampa Bay, finishing with 1,575 rushes for 5,957 yards and 37 touchdowns. Add to that 430 receptions for 3,492 yards and nine more scores, and you have a foundational player that was stuck without any help through the 1980’s.
Wilder still holds the Buccaneers’ franchise records for rushing attempts, rushing yards, and receptions while setting the NFL record for most carries in a game with 43 in 1984 – which has since been broken. Wilder’s 492 touches in that 1984 Pro Bowl season still stands as an NFL record, seeming less and less likely to ever be broken by today’s NFL stars.
Wilder is an underappreciated member of Buccaneers’ history given that during his tenure, the Bucs had only two seasons with a winning record, going 9-7 in Wilder’s 1981 rookie season and 5-4 in a strike shortened 1982 season.
Much like LeRoy Selmon in those early years of Bucs football, Wilder was the reason fans attended the games. He was the focal point, the draw to endure some horrendously difficult seasons. Never once did his effort or heart waver despite the team’s overall failures. Wilder epitomized what it meant to be a good teammate and one heck of a football player. Wilder still holds twelve Buccaneers records and not only does he deserve his spot in the Ring, he earned it.