Wesley Carter Welker (born May 1, 1981 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) is an American football wide receiver for the New England Patriots of the National Football League. He played collegiately at Texas Tech. He is one of only two players in NFL history to ever have converted a field goal, converted an extra point, recorded a tackle, and fielded a punt and kick off return all in the same game. He and T. J. Houshmandzadeh shared league leader honors for receptions during the 2007 season.
Welker holds several all-time records for the Patriots and Dolphins franchises. He is the Dolphins' all-time kick off return leader, both in total returns and yardage, and their all-time leader in total punt returns (he is second in yardage). He is the Patriots' all-time leader for receptions in a single season.
High school career
Welker started his football career at Heritage Hall School
in Oklahoma City, where he and Graham Colton
were teammates. In his junior year, he helped lead his team to the 2A State Football championship over Tishomingo High School
; in that game, Welker had three touchdowns, over 200 all-purpose yards, a 47-yard field goal, and an interception. Also, in 1999
he was named The Daily Oklahoman
All-State Player of the Year, and Oklahoma State Player of the Year by USA Today
. Welker played in the 2000 Oil Bowl
, scoring a 40-yard field goal for the Oklahoma team. Out of high school, Welker was not recruited much as he was considered to be too small to play at the college level. However, after a recruit at Texas Tech backed out of his scholarship, it was offered to Welker. Said Welker of the experience:
"I was thinking I'd get a scholarship somewhere. When it didn't happen when it was supposed to, on signing day, I was pretty hurt by it. … In the end, I don't think I could've picked a better school than Texas Tech.
At Heritage Hall, Welker was a prolific contributor on offense, defense, and special teams. As a running back, he scored 80 touchdowns (53 rushing and 27 receiving). As a defensive back, he had 581 tackles, 22 interceptions (three of which he returned for touchdowns), and nine fumble recoveries. As a kicker, he scored 35 field goals and 165 extra points; his longest field goal, 57 yards, actually exceeds the personal best of current Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
Welker's last minute signing proved to be a bonanza for the Texas Tech Red Raiders
. Based on a highlight reel from high school, Welker earned the nickname "The Natural" before his freshman year for his versatility and big-game performances. Over his four-year career, he had 259 receptions for 3,019 yards and 21 touchdowns
, and 79 rushes for 456 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored eight touchdowns returning punts in his career, still tied for the NCAA
record. In 2003, Welker won the Mosi Tatupu Award
, given annually to the best special teams player in college football.
After his senior season at Texas Tech, Welker went undrafted in the 2004 NFL Draft but ended up signing as a free agent with the San Diego Chargers.
Despite making the Chargers' roster out of training camp, Welker was cut after the first week of the 2004
season and signed with the Miami Dolphins
, where he was mostly used on special teams
. Playing against the Patriots on October 10
, Welker became the second player in NFL history to return a kickoff and a punt, kick an extra point and a field goal
, and make a tackle
in a single game.
During training camp at the beginning of the 2005
season, Welker was promoted to the third wide receiver spot after Chris Chambers
and Marty Booker
. He finished the season with 29 receptions for 434 yards and no touchdowns. He also had 43 punt returns for 390 yards, a 9.1 average, and 61 kickoff returns for 1,379 yards, a 22.6 average. These ranked 11th and 20th in the NFL, respectively.
After rumors that he would be cut during the preseason, Welker started off being the lone bright-spot of the struggling Miami Dolphins offense. Through five games, he netted a team-high 29 catches and team-high 299 yards. During Week five, he was a huge target for back-up quarterback Joey Harrington
, recording a then-career high nine catches for 77 yards in the 20-10 loss to the New England Patriots. On the season
, Welker had a team-best 67 receptions for 687 yards and one score. He returned 48 kickoffs for 1,048 yards (22.2 average) and 41 punts for 378 yards (9.2 average).
On March 1
, the Dolphins offered Welker, a restricted free agent, a second-round tender (the second-lowest tender) of $1.35 million for a one-year contract. The Patriots, who were interested in Welker, had originally considered signing Welker, a restricted free agent
, to an offer sheet which Miami would have had seven days to match; according to The Boston Globe
, that sheet would have contained a poison pill
provision which would have made the offer difficult for the Dolphins to match. Ultimately, however, the Patriots decided not to use such an offer, and traded the Dolphins their 2007 second- and seventh-round draft picks for Welker. (Coincidentally, one of Welker's quarterbacks at Texas Tech, Kliff Kingsbury
, was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round in 2003, though Kingsbury never played for the team.)
Welker's first season as a Patriot eclipsed his best season as a Dolphin (2006); he bettered his totals for receptions, touchdowns, and yardage in his first ten games. In Week 1, he caught the first of the Patriots' record 75 touchdowns, equaling the one receiving touchdown he had scored in his three seasons with the Dolphins. He set career bests for yardage three times: in the Patriots' Week 6 win against the Dallas Cowboys, Welker had eleven catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns (all career bests); the next week, against the Dolphins, he had nine catches for 138 yards and two more touchdowns (the most receiving yards of any NFL player that week); and in Week 12, against the Eagles, he had 13 receptions for 149 yards. In Week 15, against the Jets, Welker reached 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career; in Week 16, against the Dolphins, he recorded his 101st reception of the season, tying the Patriots franchise record set by Troy Brown in 2001. In Week 17, against the Giants, he caught eleven more passes, setting the Patriots franchise record for catches with 112, and tying Bengals receiver T. J. Houshmandzadeh for most receptions in the 2007 NFL season. He also set an NFL record for most catches in a first season with a new team. Welker, who finished the season with 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns, received one vote for NFL Offensive Player of the Year, an award won by his quarterback, Tom Brady, and was voted to his first AP All-Pro Team (second team).
In his first two postseason games, Welker had 16 receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He tied the Super Bowl record of 11 receptions in a single game in the Patriots' 17-14 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
During the Patriots' June 2007 minicamp, Brady compared Welker to a Labrador Retriever
; Welker himself owns a chocolate Lab named after Steve Nash
, a point guard
for the Phoenix Suns
, who is also known for his relatively small stature.
Welker has also founded the 83 Foundation, a charitable organization that supports athletic activities in his native Oklahoma City.