Over the holiday weekend, I was approached by Brad Burke of Gatorade, who presented me with an opportunity to speak over the phone with Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, and talk about the Gatorade NFL Beat the Heat Program as well as the Patriots 2010 season.
The interview with Wes went really well and was very exciting, lasting about 11 minutes. I also got some great information out of him as well. So without further ado, I present my interview with Wes Welker:
Greg Knopping: As you know, Gatorade has teamed up with the NFL for the Beat the Heat program, a program that educates young athletes about heat illness. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about the program, for those who aren't too familiar with it.
Wes Welker: Yeah, absolutely. Well as you know during training camp and sorts of different things like that, and being out there during practice. Make sure that you're staying hydrated and staying on top of your body and being at a young age, you need to make sure you're drinking plenty of, not only just water, but Gatorade as well and mostly Gatorade before, during, and after activities. And on top of that [with] Gatorade you can go to NFL.com/trainingcamp and there's a safety kit that you can Gatorade will donate one dollar to charity, for every person that downloads the safety kit.
Greg Knopping: And as an NFL player yourself, you probably have to keep safe during training camp and I'm wondering what kind of significance it has for you as well.
Wes Welker: Absolutely, being able to go out there and do my job I have to be able to replenish those electrolytes when I'm out there on the field; make sure that I'm getting plenty of them in my body and get ready for the next practice, especially during two-a-days and stuff like that. And really even through the week to make sure that on Sundays I'm ready to play.
Greg Knopping: So maybe we'll stick with the off the field stuff for another minute. So over the summer, we ran a poll with the fans and you were named one of the top five most popular athletes in the Boston area [laughs]. So it could be charitable, such as your 83 Foundation, besides from chilling at the Mansion and shooting commercials with Schefter, what's one thing that you do off the field that most fans might not know that you do?
Wes Welker: One thing that I do off the field that most fans don't know about... shoot... I'm trying to think of something that they don't know about. I feel like my days, especially this offseason, are just training, constantly, and doing all of that. Actually, I got into a couple of horses this offseason. That's kind of been fun, a little recreation type deal. Looking into some thoroughbreds and I got a couple horses that and one that's actually been doing pretty well. That's something I've kind of enjoyed.
Greg Knopping: That's really interesting. And since we're on [the off-the-field stuff], could you maybe explain a little bit about your 83 Foundation? I thought this would be a good time to talk about that.
Wes Welker: Yeah, absolutely. It's based out of Oklahoma City, it's for underprivileged kids... We've actually changed it to the Wes Welker Foundation. So you can go to weswelkerfoundation.org and check it out there. And we've put in weight rooms at underprivileged high schools and really [have been] mentoring those kids and those coaches, making sure that they're getting the use out of it that they need. We actually had a program that went from one win last year to make it all the way to the state championship game. And just a year into having a weight program there and the new coach has done a really great job with those kids.
Greg Knopping: That's also really great to hear. So I was thinking that we would transition a little bit to on-the-field stuff. So as you obviously know, the Patriots picked up a few weapons for the offense this offseason. Namely, the tight ends; Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Alge Crumpler - Because of this and what we saw in the preseason, a lot more of the two and sets, maybe even a little bit of the three tight end sets, how do you think that this may change the way that you're used personally as well as your overall offensive philosophy?
Wes Welker: You know, however they need to use me is how it needs to be done. But, the new guys are playing great ball for us and it's really our most improved position on the team and those tight are doing a great job not only out there catching balls but blocking and doing whatever is necessary for a tight end to do. So we're definitely very excited about their potential and whatever my role is going to be is whatever it is and I just want to go out there and help the team win.
Rest of the interview, including what Wes had to say about Chad Ochocinco and his supposed touchdown celebration after the jump!
Greg Knopping: Yup, and I sort of got the feeling that over the months, you got sort, and I don't want to say sick and tired, but the media they just keep asking about and analyzing your knee. So I don't want to specifically ask about your knee, but I want to talk about how the media treats you about it, because you've sometimes been portrayed as "super-human" because you recovered so quickly and what not. Do you feel comfortable with the way you've been portrayed?
Wes Welker: Yeah, I've been fine with it. You know, whatever it is, is what it is, so I was just trying to get out there on the field as soon as I could and I do think people make a bigger deal out of the knee than needs to be but I'm pleased with the progress and [I] am a little bit surprised [at] the media attention [and how big it] got.
Greg Knopping: Yeah, and so this time of year we just went through the roster cuts and players are still getting shuffled around and this year the Pats had two undrafted free agents make the team; Kyle Love and Dane Fletcher. So being an undrafted player yourself, who made the Chargers, then was cut after one week, what is it like for these guys who are sort of on the fringe and they don't really know what their job situation is going to be day-to-day, week-to-week?
Wes Welker: Yeah it's an exciting time because you made the team and you beat the odds of really getting an opportunity to go out there and play and it's been probably a real trying time. I remember when I was in San Diego trying to make it myself... It was almost kind of a breath of fresh air, just kind of exhaling a little bit. And then of course as soon as I did that I got cut the next week. It's just one of those deals where you got to keep on working and keep on playing and keep on doing the things you did that got you on the roster [in the first place].
Greg Knopping: And speaking of your game, people kind of, they associate you with being a slot receiver. But what part of your game do you think is the most underrated and that you pride yourself in?
Wes Welker: I would say my blocking. Not that I'm a mammoth out there, but I think that with my technique and understanding where the ball's going and staying square with the defender is probably one of my things that I feel like's overlooked.
Greg Knopping: And what's the general feeling been like around Foxboro this year? Do you feel like the team's ready to compete at a real high level and what's the chemistry in the locker room and on the field been like?
Wes Welker: The chemistry has been good. I think that each day that we get out there and get together that every time we do it, it gets better. So we just got to continue doing that and I feel like it's a good feel in the locker room. Guys are out there to work, win football games, and that's what it's about.
Greg Knopping: Well that's great to hear [from my standpoint]. So looking forward to the Bengals on Sunday... They had a much improved defense last year in 2009 with the corners Jonathan Joseph, Leon Hall, and they added Pacman Jones; what do you think you have to do both personally and as an offense to have success on opening day?
Wes Welker: I think we're going to have to be able to run the ball and be physical out there and understand what they're trying to do to us and really just going out there and making some plays, and just making sure we get open as receivers and blocking these guys and staying physical with them and hopefully come out with the W.
Greg Knopping: Alright, I've got one last question for you.
Wes Welker: Alright.
Greg Knopping: Alright, did you hear about Chad Ochocinco and if he's going to score he's going to fire off the muskets in the end zone?
Wes Welker: [Laughs] I haven't heard that.
Greg Knopping: Oh, you haven't? Well supposedly, he's going to score his touchdown... which he probably won't [Laughs] Then he's going to fire off the musket. What's your response to talk like that?
Wes Welker: Oh, well hopefully our defense will take that to heart and make sure that we keep him out of that endzone, and don't let that happen on our home field.
Greg Knopping: And does coach Belichick use that type of stuff as bulletin board material?
Wes Welker: You know, sometimes. I wouldn't say in every case, but in some cases he feels like it's going to give us an advantage and then he'll probably bring it up.
Greg Knopping: And you vs. Chad... do you think you could ‘D' him up?
Wes Welker: [Laughs] Do I think I could beat him up? You know, I don't know. He takes all those boxing classes and stuff like that I don't do anything like that.
Greg Knopping: Oh no, I said ‘D,' defense. Cover him.
Wes Welker: Oh, defense? If I played defense?
Greg Knopping: Yeah. [Laughs]
Wes Welker: Ah man, I don't know, I was pretty scrappy back in the day. I was defensive player of the year in high school before I was offensive player of the year... I could do a little something back there.
Greg Knopping: [Laughs] Alright, well once again thanks a lot for taking the time to talk to me.
Wes Welker: Alright, not a problem.
Greg Knopping: I really appreciate it. Good luck this year, good luck on Sunday.
Wes Welker: Alright, thanks Greg.
Although Wes mentioned a lot about the Gatorade NFL Beat-the-Heat program in his interview, I thought I would take a few moments to talk a little bit more about the program.
First, Wes is one of a large handful of NFL players and coaches participating in the 2010 Gatorade-NFL "Beat the Heat" program. The program is "an educational initiative to raise awareness about heat-related illness among teen athletes, as well as their parents and coaches. NFL players, coaches and even their families are uniting to raise awareness about this important issue." The program will also help athletes/parents/coaches identify risk factors and symptoms of heat-related-illness, as well as teach them how to hydrate properly with water and products such as Gatorade. This is important even in September, as many teams will practice in high heat into September and even October. As Wes mentioned in his interview, you can go to NFL.com/trainingcamp and download the Heat Safety Kit. Each time someone downloads the kit, Gatorade will donate $1 to charity organizations that battle heat illness, such as the Korey Stringer Institute and the Kendrick Fincher Memorial Foundation.
Overall, the interview went really well, and I just wanted to thank Brad Burke and Andrew Soucy of Gatorade, and of course Wes Welker (who I know was extremely busy Tuesday) for the interview. We got a few really interesting nuggets out of Wes, including his Wes Welker Foundation, the team chemistry, the most underrated part of his game, and whether or not he could beat up... I mean 'D' up Chad Ochocinco.