By Rich Kurtzman
Name: Wes Welker – WR – #83
Weight: 185 lbs.
Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK
College: Texas Tech University
Experience: 9 seasons
Wes Welker might just be the luckiest receiver in the history of the NFL.
Welker’s gone from one quarterbacking legend to another, in Tom Brady of the New England Patriots to Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. But things weren’t always as rosy for the future Hall of Fame slot receiver.
The short receiver’s football history dates back to Texas Tech, were he was dubbed “The Natural” for being able to affect the game in three different ways. Welker was a good running back, a great receiver and a world-class punt returner. He finished his career with the Red Raiders compiling 456 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground, 3,000 yards and 21 scores through the air and an amazing eight touchdowns on returns, which is still an NCAA record.
For one reason or another, Welker wasn’t even invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, and he went un-drafted.
The San Diego Chargers took a chance on him and dropped Welker in 2004 due to a lack of production before he landed in Miami to play with the Dolphins for three seasons. While he enjoyed some success as a receiver in Miami, his dominance came with the New England Patriots.
The year 2007 brought Welker’s first 110-plus reception season (112), complete with eight touchdowns. He followed that up with two more (111, 123), becoming the first receiver to have three straight seasons with 110-plus catches. After a “down” year in 2010, Welker bounced back with his best season ever in 2011, recording 122 catches for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns. And last season was nearly as spectacular, again setting a record with 5 seasons of 110 receptions (118).
Welker thrived in his tenure with New England, earning Pro Bowl bids five years in a row. First-team All-Pro in 2009 and 2011, second-team All-Pro in 2007 and 2008. He also received the Ed Block Courage Award in 2007 and 2010, which is voted on by teammates as leaders of sportsmanship.
Despite making the Super Bowl during two of his five seasons with the Patriots, there was a change of mindset following New England’s loss to the eventual champion Baltimore Ravens within the organization and Welker wasn’t re-signed. The Denver Broncos, who were already Super Bowl favorites in the AFC, saw an opportunity and trampled the competition, asserting themselves to the rest of the league that they are here to win it all.
If it weren’t for the addition of Manning last season, Welker would be considered likely the biggest free agent signing in the history of the Mile High franchise, and he gives Peyton another extremely talented receiver to throw the ball to.
Denver already had improving young receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside, creating an amazing one-two punch last season with 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns combined. Now the orange and blue possess the greatest slot receiver in NFL history, meaning the Broncos should challenge to be the best offensive team in the league this season. Their 30.1 points per game were the second highest among all NFL teams and Manning’s 37 touchdown passes were third-best in the league.
Welker’s addition only makes the team that much more deadly to opposing defenses, especially in this pass-happy NFL.
In training camp, Welker has already created chemistry with his fellow receivers, his quarterback, as well as defensive back Chris Harris, who regularly has to cover him in practice.
Simply stated, with Thomas, Decker and now Welker, the Broncos have the deadliest wide receiver corps in the National Football League to go along with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. Now they can craft one of the greatest seasons in Bronco history of all time.
For more NFL player features, visit 32 Players, 32 Days.
Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.