The Patriots lost a valuable member of their offense when receiver Wes Welker agreed to a free agent contract with the Denver Broncos on Wednesday. The move ends Welker’s six-year tenure in New England, during which he became the most productive receiver in franchise history. Take a look at Welker’s career in New England amd the path that led him there.
Welker was born May 1, 1981 in Oklahoma City, Okla., the same place he began his football career. Welker attended Heritage High School and in his junior year, he helped his team to the 2A State Football championship victory. Welker scored three touchdowns, and had over 200 total yards receiving, a 47-yard field goal, and an interception in the game. He was named State Player of the year by USA Today.
Despite his successful showings in high school, Welker wasn’t immediately recruited to play on the college level as he was thought to be too small to compete. It wasn’t until a recruit at Texas Tech backed out of his scholarship that it was offered to Welker.
During his four years with the Texas Tech Red Rangers, Welker had 259 receptions for 3,019 yards and 21 touchdowns. He was also a force carrying the ball with 79 rushes for 459 yards and two touchdowns. Welker won the Mosi Tatupu Award for being the best special teams player of 2003 and was named Sports Illustrated’s All-Decade team for punt returning but was not invited to the NFL’s Scouting Combine after graduation.
In 2004, Welker wasn’t selected in the NFL draft but he signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Diego Chargers. He only played in one game that season before being released when the Chargers claimed a safety off waivers. Instead of signing with the Chargers practice squad, Welker accepted a contract with the Miami Dolphins.
The Miami Years
Welker played for the Miami Dolphins from 2004 until 2006. During his first season, he was used mostly on special teams. In 2005, Welker was given the third wide receiver slot, but didn’t score a single touchdown. When 2006 came along, rumors that Welker would be cut from the Dolphins were squashed when he became the star of the Miami defense. He also had a team-best 67 receptions for 687 yards and one touchdown. It would be his last season in Miami, however, as he would be traded to the Patriots the next season.
New England Legacy
In what could’ve been a complicated trade between New England and Miami, the Patriots settled on a deal that had them sending their 2007 second-round and seventh-round draft picks to the Dolphins in exchange for Welker. The slot receiver continued to improve his totals from his time in Miami, even setting a league record for most catches in a first season with a new team.
With quarterback Tom Brady out for the season in 2008, Welker stepped up to become the first player in Patriots history to have back-to-back 100-reception seasons. It was the same season that Welker was fined $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct in the end zone when he laid down to make a snow angel after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in a December game at Gillette Stadium.
Fast forward to 2009, Welker had another outstanding season. He pulled in a league-high 123 receptions, but in the Week 17 loss to the Texans in Houston, Welker, pictured on crutches, tore his ACL and MCL and was played on injured reserve and later underwent surgery.
After a rehabilitating offseason, Welker played in 15 games during the 2010 season, starting 11 of them. He also had the lowest total of receiving yards in his Patriots career that season, but he was able to score seven touchdowns along the way.
New England Fame
Welker came back even stronger in 2011, finishing with a career highs in receiving yards (1,569) and touchdowns (9). In 2012, Welker set records for most games with 10-or-more catches and most games with 100-or-more yards receiving.
Known for being a practical joker, Welker even poked fun at Jets coach Rex Ryan’s alleged foot fetish in 2011 during a postseason press conference. In the interview, Welker commented that the Patriots “had to put their best foot forward,’’ and had to be “good little foot soldiers’’ among other foot inuendos. Welker never actually mentioned Ryan, but it was clear that he was jabbing at him.
Other Fun Facts
Welker’s breakout game with the Dolphins was a victory against the Patriots in October 2004. He became the second player in the NFL to return a kickoff and a punt, kick an extra point and field goal, and make a tackle in a single game.
In Week 1 of 2011, Welker caught a 99-yard pass from Tom Brady, tying the league record for the longest play from scrimmage during a game against his former team, the Miami Dolphins.