One of the pinnacles of modern human scientific and technological achievement is inarguably that a DVR means there’s almost always something locked and loaded and ready to watch for those times when you get home late, but you’re not quite ready to call it a night just yet. Case in point: Friday, October 6th, when this is on deck in the “Recently Recorded” section in all of its majesty:
WES WEKLER: A FOOTBALL LIFE pic.twitter.com/0rRpuZN5ba— Mike GHOULislee (@SomeCallMeGoose) October 7, 2017
Wekler, indeed. How freaking nuts is it that it was only four years ago, almost to the day, that it was Wes’s first season to not suit up for the Patriots since Belichick and Co shipped their second and seventh-round picks for...an undrafted 5’ 9’’ (MAYBE) return specialist that barely saw any offensive snaps in one of the weakest offenses in the NFL?
The most receptions in New England Patriots history. The second-most receiving yards in New England Patriots history. The eighth-most touchdowns in New England Patriots history. Five Pro Bowls. Two First-Team All-Pros and two Second-Team All-Pros, and a three-time NFL receptions leader. By my ever-worsening math, there’s only one other player that’s led the NFL in receptions since the NFL/AFL merger in three different seasons, and that was Shannon Sharpe in 1989, 1992, and 1993.
And Wes still ended his career without a ring.
This whole “A Football Life” series is impressively well-done, and they usually manage to snag enough huge names to sound off on the player that it’s pretty much a black-tie affair of some of the biggest names in the NFL and college football, players and coaches alike. Once you see the all-star cast NFL Network put together to talk about Welker (more on that later), and once you hear how they all talk about the guy, one thing is clear as day: not only did everyone respect Welker’s game, they recognize that he took an afterthought position and used it to make himself into a star.
In the tradition of Alec Shane’s “Fan Notes from the Game” here’s the highlights - and the lowlight we all know is coming - from “Wes Welker: A Football Life”.
- It’s almost never a surprise to find out that tons of NFL players played both ways in high school. In Welker’s case, though, when you see him play in all three phases of the game and play pretty much every position, like receiver (obviously), running back, safety/cornerback, punt/kick returner, and kicker (not a typo) where his high school coach swears he kicked a 57-yarder, and figure that meant he was on the field more or less for every play in high school and still schooling everyone, and then he took home a boatload of high school football awards, and still didn’t get a single scholarship offer...that’s just nuts.
- I won’t spoil it for you, but the story Wes’s high school coach tells about what he had to do to even get ONE college football team to give him a chance...just goes to show that all it takes is one chance sometimes. Then it’s what you do with it. Came dangerously close to accidentally quoting 8 Mile there. My bad.
- Texas Tech quarterback and current Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury on Welker’s style in the Air Raid offense: “We were a team that got the ball out quick. He was phenomenal. It was just the perfect mix of Coach Leach’s offense with what Wes could do based on leverage, understanding route concepts...it just all fit together.”
- Fast forward to Wes’s NFL start: how do the Chargers look now, having Drew Brees and Wes Welker on the same team and getting rid of BOTH of them?
- Did you guys remember Wes playing as the Dolphins emergency kicker against the Patriots in 2004, when he kicked off and then hauling ass down the field to make the tackle on the returner? Me neither. He also kicked an extra point and hit a field goal that day. Dang, man.
- “Wes was a tough guy to handle” -Bill Belichick
- It’s almost shocking to see Tom Brady probably logs the most on-camera time of anyone besides Wes himself on here. Between Brady and Peyton Manning, almost every other interview clip is one of the two greatest quarterbacks of all time, and they both LOVED them some Wes Welker.
- Welker on his last year in Miami after being a return man for the first two years of his NFL career: “When I first started out, I just thought I was going to be a special teams guy. I don’t know, I never really thought I had the skill set to be a receiver in the NFL, so, I was cool with that.” Oh, buddy...
- Bill Belichick calling up Nick Saban to ask him about Wes as a player and a person before they traded for him...talk about six degrees of Belichick.
- “There was instant chemistry. He had physical skills, but he was so intelligent on the field. He had great recall. I mean, you could talk about things in practice and they’d come up in a game, and he’d do them exactly the way you want him to.” -Brady on Wes’s first year in blue and silver.
- Wes says it himself: back then, base defense was still base defense, and that meant the slot guy was more often than not matched up on a linebacker in coverage, if Welker was even covered at all. Wes saying they could do “Whatever they wanted to do” isn’t bragging if it’s true.
- Yes, the Rex Ryan “FEET” press conference is in there. Enjoy it all over again.
- Wes says the 2009 season was “the top of my game”, and it’s pretty hard to argue with him.
- On the 2011 Super Bowl, everyone’s got their own “Was it Tom’s fault or was it Wes’s fault? Is Welker clutch? Did Tom throw it too high?” hot take, and just like every bar arguement, nothing here is going to change your mind. I will say this, though: people seem to think that play was just a little five-yard pitch-and-catch, and watching it again, it’s a freaking missile that’s way longer than it looks on 2nd-and-11. Like Bill O’Brien says “I do know this: that’s not why we lost the game.”
- You still remember where you were and what you were doing when you found out Wes was heading to Denver, right? Me too. That was a rough day, even if the end results proved Belichick right again.
- Said it before and I’ll say it again: I will never, ever understand how Peyton Manning has that outrageous country twang, and Eli sounds like he’s from Ohio or something.
- For all the jokes we like to make about Peyton basically being his team’s offensive coordinator on both his teams, the clips of Peyton and his receivers in the film room talking plays and chopping up coverages is fascinating. So different than Brady, but still obsessed with every last bit of the play design, down to whatever the safeties do on a given play. Amazing.
- For Welker’s third Super Bowl appearance in seven years to end in the most brutal Super Bowl pancaking of all time is so rough. Until you remember that it was Peyton and the most productive offense of all time, and, well, then I don’t feel so bad.
- “He made it OK for you to focus your offense on someone like that.” -Josh McDaniels
- “They can describe a receiver named after you, that means you’ve done something, it tells you what a special player he was.” -Peyton Manning
I’ll tip a Budweiser to that, Peyton.