Noah Wilder's college football journey ends today in paradise. Without much help from his UAB teammates, it could have ended on a rainy night in Ruston, La.
All things considered, finishing in the Bahamas is a much better option.
UAB ended the regular season at Louisiana Tech. A win and the Blazers were in the postseason; a loss and the season ended. Wilder's time on the field ended early in the first quarter.
"They thought I fractured my clavicle," Wilder said. "I heard something crack. I stayed out there and played a few more plays with it. I couldn't really use my arm. We got out of the series. After that, I couldn't really move my arm good. It was just dead. As much as I wanted to stay out there and play, I didn't want to be selfish."
He went into the medical tent on the sideline. He came out and encouraged his teammates during the 37-27 victory that ultimately earned the Blazers a spot in the Bahamas Bowl.
"I didn't take off my pads at all," Wilder said. "I was scared, thinking this may be the last time I put on pads. I had no doubts in those guys. They came to me, a lot of them, and said they're going to get me to a bowl game. That meant a lot to me. And they did. They went out and got the job done. I hope I can go out there and repay them on Friday against Miami of Ohio."
UAB not only ends a season today, but the Blazers also end the most successful era in program history and transition into Trent Dilfer's tenure as the program's head coach. UAB has the opportunity to win its 50th game since the program returned in 2017. They also have a shot at the school's third bowl win and continue its streak of winning seasons for a total of six.
It also is an opportunity for interim head coach Bryant Vincent to be the lone first-year head coach in the program's Division I history to finish above .500.
For Wilder and 20 other seniors, it's a chance to end their college football career, and for most, their football playing days, with a victory.
If Wilder is healthy enough to play, he will reach 100 tackles in a season for the first time in his career. The All-Conference USA linebacker has 99 tackles entering today's bowl game. Wilder has 327 career tackles and will finish third in that category behind former linebackers Marvin Burdette (406) and Zac Woodfin (372).
But it's not numbers that inspire Wilder in his final game as a Blazer.
"You really don't realize how quick it goes," said Wilder. "In high school, my father told me that it will pass by in the snap of your fingers and before I knew it was my senior year in high school. Now, it's my senior year in college. It's really flown by. From the days I started off as a freshman, thinking about how those long days paid off."
"I don't want it to end," he continued. "But, at some point in time, everybody's years are done. It's just been an honor to play here. It's been an awesome experience, some of the best years of my life. The time has really flown. It is crazy to think that this will be my last game playing here at UAB."
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