WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia -- If you can’t beat 'em, keep taking those with ties to the organization. That seems to be the Houston Texans modus operandi. First it was Bill O’Brien as the head coach, then Romeo Crennel as the defensive coordinator. Mike Vrabel left Ohio State’s coaching staff to come along for the ride, joining old teammate Larry Izzo. Now another familiar face has joined the staff, formerly number 83 in your Patriots program, Wes Welker.
“I think all those guys are -- Wes, Larry, Mike -- are all players that had that were as hard a working players as I coached,” said Bill Belichick Tuesday morning. “Love the game. Were grinders. Had that coaching mentality, which is be there early and stay late. Put in the extra time. Do the dirty work. They all started at the bottom and worked their way up.”
That’s been Welker’s story almost from jump. Not heavily recruited to play college ball, then almost an afterthought to start off his NFL career -- he was undrafted -- to getting cut by San Diego before latching on with Miami in 2004. It was there he caught Belichick’s eye as a player the Pats just couldn’t cover.
By the time he called it a career, Welker ranked 21st all-time in receptions and three times led the league in catches, including 123 in 2009 and 122 in 2011. Initially, Welker seemed to resist the urge to plunge back into football but the pull was too long so now he’s Coach Welker.
“Wes is such a smart, intelligent football player,” said former teammate and current Pats wide receiver Julian Edelman. “He played a lot of years. He’s a grinder, meaning he earned everything he got. He didn’t start on 3rd. He had have a long journey to being ultimately a revolutionary player who basically created a position.”
High praise from a player who succeeded Welker both as Tom Brady’s favorite target and as that slot guy who has proven to be just as tough to cover, if not more so. Maybe Welker coaching didn’t initially seem it was a fit but Edelman sees otherwise.
“Being in the locker room with him for so many years and being able to pick his brains and to see how just from how he practiced and how he played, it doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Edelman. “He was such a student of the game. He knew just about everything so it was one of those things being a coach, you know it’s a grind, it’s a huge thing, but he’s a football guy. He loves the sport.”
That passion is now Houston’s gain.