The current San Francisco 49ers wide receivers coach is one of the best route runners in National Football League history. But even casual New England Patriots fans know he did more than catch passes from Tom Brady.
From 2007-2012, Patriots fans watched the undersized speedster score points as a wide receiver, running back, and occasional kicker.
Welker scored his first points in the NFL from a field goal kick. His opponent? A bewildered Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Welker’s versatility is part of why Belichick traded for him. It’s part of why Welker is an All-Time Patriots great.
Wes Welker is sharper than a switchblade. Un-recruited out of high school and undrafted out of college, Welker had to take what he could get into the league. He did everything and more, becoming a more prolific slash player than Kordell Stewart along the way.
Early Life & College Career
Wesley Carter Welker was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, when Just the Two of Us by Grover Washington Jr. (ft. Bill Withers) rocked the nation. Rumor has it that the same tune played in Tom Brady’s head every time he threw a touchdown to Welker as a Patriot. But before Welker was a Patriot, he was a Cherokee.
Welker was born with dual citizenship as a member of both the United States and the Cherokee Nation. Indeed, Grandma Welker still resides in the Cherokee Jurisdiction of Sequoyah County, OK. As for her grandson Wes, he grew up in OKC.
Welker played high school football at Heritage Hall High School. Welker was a jack-of-all-trades from the very beginning. Welker threw, kicked, caught, ran, and stopped touchdowns on all sides of the ball –all while being undersized. He even kicked a 47-yard field goal in the Oklahoma State Championship his junior year, in between scoring three touchdowns and recording an interception in the same game.
Even after being named the Oklahoma Player of the Year in 1999 for his senior season efforts, the small but speedy Welker was largely un-recruited by college football programs.
Texas Tech offered Welker a scholarship after another player backed out. Welker received the scholarship, touchdown passes from Kliff Kingsbury, and praise for his time with the Texas Tech Raiders. Welker won the special teams Mosi Tatupu Award after his senior season as a Red Raider.
History has a funny way of repeating itself. Just like after high school, pro teams passed on the small speedster after college. Welker would once again have to prove himself any way that he could, whether it be with his brain, hands, or feet.
Wes Welker’s First NFL Points
The true Mr. Irrelevant of the 2004 draft was a linebacker named Andre Sommersell, selected last by the Oakland Raiders. Welker went undrafted.
ESPN, CBS, and USA Today reported that Eli Manning refused to be drafted by the San Diego Chargers. Wes Welker lacked the same connections as Eli and had to take what he could get.
Welker made the San Diego Chargers preseason squad in 2004, but was released after one game. The Chargers head coach later recognized that cutting the Swiss Army Man was a tremendous mistake.
From one sunny southern ocean to another, Welker landed in South Beach to join the Miami Dolphins one week after being discharged from the Chargers. Five weeks into his first NFL season, Wes Welker finally scored his first NFL points.
Wes Welker recorded his first kickoff, field goal, and points in the AFC on October 10, 2004. With the primary Dolphin place-kicked injured in warm-ups, the Blow-Holes turned to Welker.
The lefty did it all that day against the same team that would later define his legacy. Here are some walloping Welker stats from the day:
- Three kickoffs
- One tackle from his own kickoff
- One extra point
- One 29-yard field goal
- 10 kickoff and punt returns for nearly 150 yards
- One award: NFL Special Teams Player of the Week
Welker was unstoppable. Bill Belichick noticed. The Patriots won the war, but Welker won every battle.
“If you can’t beat him, trade for him,” said Belichick, who would trade for Welker three seasons later.
Wes Welker’s NFL Legacy
Wes Welker proved he could do it all on that October day and continued to prove it for the rest of his career.
Welker spent three seasons in Miami, where he still holds records for most kick returns yards (both punts and kickoffs) and most all-purpose yards in one season. Welker became a household name with the Patriots from 2007-2012. D
uring those years, the Patriots beat every team in the NFL, including the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, and Dallas Cowboys. Aaron Rodgers would have killed to throw to Wes Welker during those years, though he was probably pretty happy with Jordy Nelson.
In New England, Welker made five Pro Bowls in a row, including two First-Team All-Pro selections. He was part of the infamous 16-0 Patriots team defeated by a New York Giants Helmet Catch in Super Bowl XLII and again by the Big Blue in Super Bowl XLVI.
It is in no way a stretch to say that Welker is the greatest Patriot without a Super Bowl. He was also Tom Brady’s favorite receiver not named Randy Moss or Julian Edelman.
You could also say Welker is the greatest player to catch passes from Tom Brady and Peyton Manning without a Super Bowl. In 2013, free agent Welker signed with Peyton and the Denver Broncos. The Orange Crush was crushed to a pulp by the Seattle Seahawks Blue Wave in Super Bowl XLVIII. It was the last Super Bowl Welker ever played in.
Welker joined the St. Louis Rams (both pre and post-Los Angeles) in 2015. Welker didn’t play much in 2015 and retired a Ram.
Welker did it all for every team he ever played for, from primary school to the pros. He only kicked for Miami and New England in the NFL, and he never once missed. Welker retired with a 100-percent accuracy rating as an NFL kicker, which is pretty damn impressive for a guy hired to receive punts, not boot them.
Welker returned to the NFL in 2017 as a special teams coach with the Houston Texans. Currently, he coaches wide-outs in San Francisco on how to run routes.
Belichick has joked about bringing Welker out of retirement to kick field goals once again, but no one seriously thought that would ever happen. Then again, no one seriously thought Wes Welker would ever make it in the NFL.
Welker’s undersized body, against all odds, cast an oversized legacy in the NFL. The do-it-all receiver has a bright future as a wide receiver coach but could always become a kicking coach if he wanted to.
The Patriots have had some of the greatest players in NFL history, but no one can kick it quite like Wes Welker.