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The Canadian Football League announced Thursday night that Toronto Argonauts running back James Wilder Jr. has been named the league’s Most Outstanding Rookie.
Wilder kicked off the season on special teams, racking up seven tackles on punt and kickoff coverage units leading up to Week 13 against Edmonton. He then burst onto the scene following the Argos bye week, exploding for 257 combined yards (190 on the ground and 67 receiving) and a touchdown on 18 touches in a win over the Edmonton Eskimos. His rushing total (190) was the fourth-highest in Argos single-game history and his 76-yard rushing touchdown was the league’s longest in 2017.
One week later, Wilder proved his breakout was not just a blip on the radar, rattling off another 218 combined yards (141 rushing and 77 receiving) against the Montreal Alouettes in another home win. His 331 rushing yards in the two contests was the largest total in a two-game stretch in Argos history. Wilder even managed to one-up himself with an 85-yard touchdown rush, again setting the season’s longest mark.
After a historic takeoff, Wilder has only gotten stronger down the stretch, finishing the season ranked fifth in rushing with 872 yards on only 122 carries while adding five touchdowns. The Florida State product led all players by a significant margin with 7.1 yards per carry and nine carries of 20+ yards. With a 136-yard performance in Week 20 vs. BC, his fourth 100-yard performance in six games, Wilder tied Ottawa’s William Powell (4) with the most 100-yard rushing games this season. The first-year back was extremely productive in the passing game as well, ranking fourth on the Argos in receiving yards (533), fourth on the team in receptions (51) and his 467 yards after the catch are a team-high.
In an Eastern Final win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the first playoff game of his CFL career, the rookie back rushed for 52 yards and tallied 58 yards on eight receptions, including a crucial third-down catch to move the chains on the team’s game-winning touchdown drive.
Wilder is the first Argonaut to win the CFL’s Most Oustanding Rookie award since Derrell Mitchell in 1997.