Staying Suave: How MSOC midfielder TJ Wilder found himself at Quinnipiac

Benjamin Yeargin, Associate Sports Editor

 You can take the kid out of Miami, but you can’t take Miami out of the kid. 

Quinnipiac men’s soccer junior midfielder Terrance “TJ” Wilder was born and raised in Miami, and the impact the city left on him is evident. 

From his accent, to the Florida rappers – Kodak Black and CP3 – that he listens to pre-game, to his old hairstyle – bleached braids on one side, normal braids on the other akin to the late Florida rapper XXXTentacion – Miami is interwoven into Wilder’s being. 

So why would he come to New England – specifically Quinnipiac? 

“None of my family went to college outside of Florida,” Wilder said. “Half of the people I know in Miami have never seen snow, they’ve never been up North. If I never went to school outside of Florida, I would’ve never experienced snow, I would’ve never thought of coming to New England.” 

With a team culture that has players from all over the world, Wilder being authentically himself adds a unique mark to an already diverse squad. 

“He brings that energy,” junior defender Jared Smith said. “He’s the guy that when everyone is feeling down, he’ll come in and lift your spirits up.” 

On the field, Wilder’s playing style can be described in one word: finesse. His fancy footwork and unmatched speed allows him to navigate the midfield and move up the field with ease. 

Wilder attributes dancing, which you can see on his Instagram, to some of his capability to move his feet so well. 

“Everybody on the team says I have the footwork, because I can dance,” Wilder said. “It makes me more free, I can play loose.” 

Playing loose and being smooth was part of the reason Wilder was nicknamed “Suave,” which can be traced back to when he was in middle school and could talk himself out of different situations. 

“When I was little I was always smooth and slick, I knew how to get out of things,” Wilder said. 

Wilder appeared in 16 games and tallied five shots this season for a Bobcats team that won the MAAC Championship and appeared in the NCAA Tournament, but lost to Vermont in the first round. 

His style of play translates to all positions on the pitch, whether it be forward, which he’s played all his life, or right back, which he transitioned into his junior year of high school at Saint Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which Wilder transferred to for his junior and senior year of high school. He was named to the Boys Soccer 5A-4A Second Team his junior year too. 

“TJ is a very fast, well-rounded player who could play any position when asked,” said Ernest Muirhead, a friend and former teammate at American Heritage School, where Wilder was through his sophomore year of high school. “He is the type of player that put our mind at ease when he had the ball.” 

Quinnipiac men’s soccer ended its season with a loss to Vermont in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (Peyton McKenzie)

While things came easy on the field for Wilder, coming to Quinnipiac was anything but easy for him in the beginning. 

“My first week here, you can ask anyone around me, was the worst,” Wilder said. “I had a deeper accent, so no one knew what I was saying, so I was just getting annoyed.” 

Top that with the fact that Wilder didn’t receive playing time his first year, it was a stressful fall for him. 

But such a big shift in environment requires anyone, even “Suave,” to build a support system. An anchor for Wilder throughout his time at Quinnipiac is Smith, who has been his roommate all throughout college. They lift each other up, as friends do, on and off the field. 

“There’s been times where I messed up in one of the games and I was really upset about it,” Smith said. “He came over to me and he’s like ‘bro you got this … just do your thing.’” 

With “J-Rad,” as Wilder calls him, and other teammates like senior midfielder Jason Budhai and junior defender Rom Wasserman around him, Wilder started to feel more comfortable in Hamden, which added that authenticity and spark to the locker room. 

Whether it be having a ventriloquist dummy that the team calls “Brazy,” which reminds Wilder to be intense on the pitch, or his dancing in the locker room, Wilder adds a vibe to the team that no one can match. 

Now, with a MAAC Championship under his belt and up to two more years of college left, Wilder will take on a bigger role in the offense. With Bercedo, Svecula, Budhai and graduate student midfielders Noah Silverman and Alex Holle all potentially leaving, Wilder will be in a key position to start and earn the Bobcats another MAAC title. 

After he leaves Quinnipiac, Wilder has one thing in mind, stay in soccer, either through coaching or continuing his career. The Miami native recently began coaching, and enjoys being able to guide the kids in his community. 

“I enjoy coaching and training the little kids, especially the people who can’t pay for travel or have the things other people do,” Wilder said. “Give them a mentor, something I didn’t have.” 

No matter where Wilder ends up post-Quinnipiac, he will leave a unique mark to everyone around him. “Suave” exudes an aura of smoothness and confidence that has guided him throughout his life.