James Wilder, Giant of the Gridiron

Jan 17, 2017

It seems like Almost Yesterday that the University of Missouri football team achieved one of its greatest victories. The date was Saturday, November 18, 1978 and the Missouri Tigers were in Lincoln, Nebraska to play the second-ranked Cornhuskers.

Nebraska had won nines in a row, upset number-one ranked Oklahoma, and had their sights set on a national championship.

Missouri entered the game with a record of six and four, and had lost two of their previous three games. Nebraska led by three points at the half, 31 to 28 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and appeared on their way to victory.

But with four minutes and forty-two seconds to go, running back James Wilder, “The Sikeston Train,” powered his way into the end zone, scoring his fourth touchdown of the day, and gave Missouri a thrilling 35 to 31 victory. It remains one of the greatest moments in Missouri sports history.

Wilder was born on May 12, 1958 on a farm outside of Sikeston. Always with a love for football, Wilder led the Sikeston High School Bulldogs to an undefeated season and state championship in 1976.

From 1978 to 1980 Wilder played at Missouri, achieving great success in 1978 with the win over Nebraska, and his selection as the Most Valuable Play in a Liberty Bowl win over Louisiana State.

From 1981 to 1990, Wilder received his greatest recognition as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League and participated in the Pro Bowl Game of 1984.

His son, James Wilder, Jr., was rated as the best high school football player in the nation in 2010, and was vigorously recruited by major university programs.