Wesley “Wes” Carter Welker (born May 1, 1981) is a wide receiver for the NFL’s Denver Broncos. Welker played college football for Texas Tech University. He was signed by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent, and has also played for the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots.
Despite being undrafted, Welker has had a successful career. Only one player in NFL history, Gale Sayers, had more all-purpose yards in his first three NFL seasons than Welker did with the Dolphins; Welker holds the Dolphins’ all-time records for total kickoff returns, kickoff return yardage, and total punt returns.
As a Patriot, Welker led the league in receptions in 2007, 2009, and 2011. Welker holds the four highest single-season reception totals in Patriots history, as well as four of the top ten receiving yardage totals, including the franchise record. He also holds the franchise records for most receptions in a single game, most receiving yards in a single game, longest reception, and career receptions. Welker, who had three consecutive 110-reception seasons (and has five total), is the first receiver in NFL history with at least three 110-reception seasons, and the first with five 100-reception seasons. Welker has been selected to the Pro Bowl, the All-Pro Team, or both, in every season of his Patriots career
Welker was born in Oklahoma City. He started his football career at Heritage Hall High School in Oklahoma City. 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.
Wes 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 heavily, 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 190 tackles, 22 interceptions (three of which he returned for touchdowns), and nine fumble recoveries. As a punt returner, he scored seven touchdowns. As a kicker, he kicked 35 field goals and 165 extra points. His longest field goal, 58 yards, actually exceeds the personal best of current Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
Welker attended Texas Tech University. His 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. Welker is a member of Texas chapter of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Welker was also named to the Sports Illustrated All-Decade Team as a punt returner.
After his senior season at Texas Tech, Welker was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.
San Diego Chargers (2004)
Welker, who was not drafted during the 2004 NFL Draft, signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Diego Chargers.
Miami Dolphins (2004–2006)
After the Chargers released Welker, he passed through waivers. Although the Chargers offered him a slot on their practice squad, Welker chose to sign with the Miami Dolphins instead, where he was mostly used on special teams.
New England Patriots (2007–2012)
Since joining the Patriots in 2007, Welker has caught more passes than any player in the league, and ranks in the top five in yardage. Welker reached 500 receptions with the Patriots in just 70 games, an NFL record. Welker holds the franchise record for consecutive games with receptions, having caught a pass in every game (regular season and postseason) he has played as a Patriot. As of Week 2 of the 2012 regular season, Welker also holds the all-time Patriots franchise record for receptions, breaking in just 79 games the record of Troy Brown who played more than twice as many games as a Patriot (192 regular-season games). Welker ranks third in receiving yards behind Brown and Stanley Morgan.
Denver Broncos (2013-present)
On March 13, 2013, Welker signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Denver Broncos. Welker’s signing with Denver was a result of New England Patriots not putting a long-term contract for him. The situation mirrors the sequence of events that led to Adam Vinatieri leaving Tom Brady for Peyton Manning (then QB of the Indianapolis Colts) seven years ago.
In 2007 Welker established the 83 Foundation (after his uniform number in San Diego, Miami and New England). The foundation, renamed the Wes Welker Foundation in December 2009, states its goal is “to influence at-risk youth, by encouraging their full potential through athletics and positive role models.” Its work primarily benefits schools and other organizations in Welker’s hometown of Oklahoma City.
On June 23, 2012, Welker married Anna Burns in Aspen, Colorado. Burns, from Fayetteville, North Carolina.