Once A Role Player, New England Patriots' Wes Welker Now A Star

OKLAHOMA CITY -- She went to her bedroom and cried that night, not because of what the man said but because she knew the whole world was wrong. One hundred and five faxes, 104 "no"s, all he wanted was a scholarship.If you sign Wes, his mom said, you won't be sorry. If you sign Wes, he'll change your program. This is not a story about a little man (5 foot 9) playing on the world's biggest stage. That's too cliché. It is about doors. Nine years after college football shunned him, four years after the Chargers cut him, Welker is a mega star headed for the Super Bowl with New England. He is a big reason the Patriots are 18-0 and flirting with NFL history. And none of it would have happened if Welker had accepted one “NO.” "We tried to teach that, to run after your dreams, don't let people tell you no. That's why it's such a great story. When one door would close, another one would open." Shelley says. When Welker reached high school at Heritage Hall, a private college prep school he'd play offense, defense, and special teams in practice, then dive to the line on wind sprints because no sir, he was not going to be beat. He'd vomit at least every other week during a game. Coach Rod Warner still has it on film. See Wes run 50 yards for a touchdown, charge back onto the field to kick the extra point, then turn and ask for a minute so he can throw up on the 10-yard line. "It wasn't nerves," Warner says. "He just pushed his body so hard.” "The people in the stands would just start applauding. He gave it his all every single drill, every sprint, every play." Before Welker, Heritage Hall had just one 10-win season in 30 years. It has averaged 11 wins a year since. Welker led them to a state championship as a junior and scored 24 points a game as a senior…in football. And when he was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year, his followers assumed he was headed for the big time. They didn't know prototypes. Being 5-9 was one thing. Being 5-9 with a 4.55 40-yard dash is enough to make you recruiting repellent. The weekend before letter-of-intent day, Warner sent out 105 faxes. "This kid is still available," he said, "if anyone is interested." He called Tommy McVay, an old friend who was working at Texas Tech. "Tommy, he's the best player I've ever coached." “Everybody says that”, McVay said. But Tech coach Mike Leach, a spread-offense guru known around Big 12 circles as the mad scientist, tried to open his mind as he popped in the video. "You go through the internal debate the whole time," Leach says. "Wow, he's just a little too small, ooh, he's a little too slow?" Welker flew to Lubbock after signing day.Within weeks after school started, the Tech coaches were calling Welker "The Natural." "Everybody," Leach says, "seemed to feel like he could do anything." As Welker's numbers exploded and the legend grew, people outside of Lubbock, Texas, wanted to know more about his will. "I remember when they brought him in, he was 5-9 and very unassuming," says former Red Raiders quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. "We're offering this kid a scholarship? Definitely on looks, he didn't pass the eye test. But on the field, he was unbelievable." Within a few months, Welker was in the starting lineup as a true freshman. In four years, he caught 259 passes for 3,019 yards and 21 touchdowns. His eight career punt-return touchdowns still tie an NCAA record. He played most of his senior year with turf toe, an injury so painful Welker hobbled around campus in a protective boot on the off days. When he graduated from Texas Tech in 3½ years with a business degree, he was certain he was headed to the NFL. The Welkers held two days of draft parties in 2004, and the house grew silent when the final pick was named. If this doesn't work out, Warner told him, there are other …"Don't even go there, Coach," Welker told Warner. "I'm going to make it in the NFL. There's no other option." The Chargers kept him through training camp, and Welker thought that meant he was safe. They cut him after the first game. One friend says Welker is "massively pissed off" at San Diego to this day.After he got cut the Miami Dolphins signed him. A month later, Welker became just the second player in NFL history to return a kickoff and a punt, kick a field goal and an extra point, and make a tackle in one game. He did it against the Patriots who has a coach that just happens to love that kind of throwback versatility. When the Dolphins didn’t resign him the Patriots quickly did. They knew he was a perfect fit in New England, the land of no-nonsense. Men with stern faces walk around with purpose, as if they're headed to the bank to open an IRA … minutes after they've won a playoff game. Belichick wants a team full of role players. Welker fought half his life for such a role. While defenses keyed on stopping Randy Moss this year, Welker quietly had a franchise-record 112 catches. "Perfect place, the perfect situation for him," says running back Kevin Faulk. "I told him when he first got here that he couldn't have come to an offense that was better for him, that fits his ability and what he does as a receiver." Wes continues to prove to all the doubters that you can’t measure heart. Even though the Patriots lost to the Giants in an epic super bowl, Wes Welker tied the Super Bowl record for most catches with 11. Not bad for someone that nobody wanted.