Edmonton Elks sign 2021 team-leading rusher James Wilder Jr.

Edmonton Elks' James Wilder Jr. (32) celebrates a touchdown against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during first half CFL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Saturday, September 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jason Franson

The Edmonton Elks are bringing back their leading rusher and combined yardage leader from 2021.

On Monday, the Elks announced a one-year contract extension for running back James Wilder Jr. through to the end of the 2022 CFL season.

Wilder Jr. said since the 2021 season ended, he always wanted to come to Edmonton.

“Since I left Edmonton, I just felt like I had a lot of unfinished business,” he said. “And when (Elks head coach and general manager) Chris Jones came over, that just put the icing on the cake to make this whole thing happen.”

Listen below: Edmonton Elks running back James Wilder Jr. says he’s looking forward to working with new head coach and GM Chris Jones.

Despite a 3-11 record, Wilder Jr. was a bright spot for the Elks as he finished third in the CFL in rushing yards recording 770 yards, a 5.4-yard rushing average and scoring two touchdowns. Wilder Jr. added 26 rushes of 10 yards or more and five rushes of 20 yards or more.

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The 29-year-old added 226 receiving yards and scored one touchdown. Wilder Jr. finished fifth in the CFL in yards from scrimmage with 990 yards.

Jones said Wilder Jr. is going to be a vital piece of the Elks’ offence.

“When you got a guy that you can hand the football off and he gets 5.7 yards a carry, that’s very important,” Jones said. “Yards after contact are extremely important and we are going to be a tough and physical football team.

“We’re going to play good defence and we are going to hand the football off a bunch. That’s kind of our M.O., and that’s why we need a back like James.”

Listen below: Edmonton Elks head coach and general manager Chris Jones on what James Wilder Jr. will bring to his football team.

After being unvaccinated during the 2021 season, Wilder Jr. has received his first COVID-19 vaccine dose and will be fully vaccinated by the time training camp begins in May.

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After playing the 2021 season unvaccinated, Wilder Jr. said thanks to the advice of his doctor, he decided to take the vaccine. He said his message to other players who are unvaccinated is simple.

“Talk to a trusted doctor,” Wilder Jr. said. “One of my head coaches in high school named Frank Brown was a trusted doctor of mine and I got to talk to him instead of trying to do my own research.

“Someone who can break it down to you unforcefully and somebody you’re comfortable with and you’ll get all of the facts that you need. Trust it or not, you’ll feel comfortable with what you’re doing. The research and facts that I got back, I felt comfortable and so did the rest of my family.”

The Elks announced their entire team will be 100 per cent fully vaccinated by the start of the 2022 CFL season.

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