TAMPA – James Wilder Jr. says he can finally sleep.
The Plant High five-star running back/defensive end announced he was committing to Florida State on Wednesday. Since then, many dominos have fallen. Does Wilder’s commitment mark a Seminoles' recruiting coup? Are the 'Noles back?
All FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher could do when Wilder called with his pledge was scream into the phone. As for Wilder himself, he’s finally chill, able to focus on his senior year and leading the Panthers to a mythical national championship – and in between, get to all those Facebook friend requests.
Times staff writer Eduardo A. Encina caught up with Wilder after Friday’s morning practice and asked for a postmortem. Wilder obliged.
What have the past 36 hours been like following your announcement?
I had one of my best practices ever (Wednesday night). I was feeling relieved. I had a big boulder off my back. It was stress free. I didn’t go to sleep staring at the roof wondering what I was going to do and how many people I was going to make mad. I haven’t slept like that in a long time. I slept great. I really think I’ve had the best two practices I’ve ever had. I’m psyched up and still excited about it.
I’ve heard you’ve become quite popular in the social networking world since Wednesday. Do you suddenly have a lot more “friends”?
Oh my God. I got home yesterday and I got on Facebook after the announcement and I had 456 friend requests. I was in the 200s in my notifications and I had 98 messages. I didn’t get through and finish any of them yet. I’m trying to knock out about 50 a day.
Plant’s new artificial turf field is being put down as we speak. How excited are you to get on that field?
Yeah, it looks like they’ve got half of it laid out. I’m very excited. I went to go feel it. It’s soft, even before they put the sand and the little pebble things in it. I just can’t wait to just go lay out on it and play our first game on it.
I know you had officially committed to FSU two days before your announcement, but what was Jimbo Fisher’s reaction when you talked to him afterwards?
They were very excited. They said, ‘Let’s get this thing rolling. Let’s win the national championship.’ They were great. They were happy to have me. They were excited, just enthusiastic, yelling, excited. They’re all happy about this whole process.
How did you celebrate that night?
Me and my family, we went out to dinner. We just ate and talked about it. Coach (Robert) Weiner came later and ate dinner with us. We just all celebrated. Every night used to be stressful, but that was a stress-free night.
There are a lot of expectations here at Plant this season. Now that you can concentrate on football, what are your goals for this year?
My goal is to win the national championship. I want to get a national ring. Another goal is to go undefeated. Last year, we had a loss on our record. Even though we won state, I don’t want to have a loss on our record. I want our team to be No. 1 in the nation, make sure we win state and go undefeated.
Speaking of the national championship. Plant is ranked No. 2 by ESPN and you go to Texas next month to play No. 1 Abilene. Have you ever been to Texas?
I have. I was there for the U.S. Army All-America combine (in San Antonio). I know Texas thinks they’re their own little country. You know how they are. When three Florida people won the MVP awards, we got booed. They booed us. They don’t like Florida, so it will be a big rivalry.
- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (firstname.lastname@example.org)