ODU football's Derek Wilder opens up about first season without his father as head coach

Posted at 12:01 AM, Mar 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-07 00:01:49-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Old Dominion defensive lineman Derek Wilder is certainly not new to ODU football, entering his sixth season as a Monarch, but he is facing a huge change this season.

Wilder will no longer be labeled the 'coach's son' after his dad, Bobby, resigned following the 2019 season.

“It’s definitely different coming home, he’s asking how were the workouts when normally he knows how the workouts were," Wilder said. "I’m like alright, now I have to explain everything I did where normally he just knew.”

Now that Derek is no longer playing for his father, both Wilder and head coach Ricky Rahne agree this season could be a good opportunity for him to utilize his role as a leader.

“We both talked about how it’d be a little freeing for him," Rahne said. "He wouldn’t have that responsibility of being the head coach's son. He could just be a senior and that responsibility is probably responsibility enough.”

“Now it’s not me saying something that’s coming from the head coaches son," Wilder added. "It's just one of the players on the team, one of the starters on the team, one of the guys that’s been here for a while."

Saying Wilder's been with the program for 'a while' is probably an understatement.

He moved to Norfolk in 2007 when his dad was hired to take over the start-up football program. As he looks back on ODU football's first season, he still vividly remembers his role as the tee boy.

“I was out there already holding the tee. There's 15 minutes before kickoff and I'm already holding the tee," Wilder said. "They come out and the canon goes off, and it was that shock and awe like holy smokes, this is what college football is.

"20,000 all jumping on their feet, the canon going off, my dad’s leading the team out, that was pretty awesome.”

All the time he's spent in Norfolk since then has given him a strong knowledge of the area. He offered to lend that expertise to the family of head coach Ricky Rahne and it became the moment that stood out to the new bench boss the most during their first meeting.

“He offered to help my wife with any cool things around the area for kids and things like that," Rahne said. "He's like, I grew up here coach so I know everything to do around here and that was awesome."

“I was here before most of the buildings on campus were here, let alone the stadium," Wilder said. "Just seeing ODU evolve, it’s pretty crazy.”

Just as ODU has, Wilder evolves, shedding the title 'coach's son' as he embraces a leadership role during his final season as a Monarch football player.