- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before there was Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon or Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley, there was Kliff Kingsbury and Wes Welker.
With Kingsbury throwing most of the passes, Welker hauled in 259 receptions during his career at Texas Tech.
Welker, who signed with the Denver Broncos during the offseason, was back in his native Oklahoma City this week for the opening of his new restaurant, Wes Welker’s Sports Bar and Grill.
There, ESPN.com caught up with Welker to discuss his former quarterback becoming the new head coach of the Red Raiders.
Jake Trotter: What’s the recommended dish at the new restaurant?
Wes Welker: The Red-Zone Rush (spicy cheeseburger) and the Pigskin (pulled pork sandwich). And the chicken and waffle bites, too. I think those are awesome.
I see people on Twitter want you to open one in Lubbock – any chance of that in the future?
Welker: Yeah, absolutely. If this does well, I’d love to move one to Lubbock, Denver, who knows.
Speaking of Lubbock, what was going through your mind when you found out Kliff Kingsbury would be the next coach at Texas Tech?
Welker: Well, I had been hitting up people, calling up people, like, 'This is our guy, this is who we need to get.' I think when you’re at Texas Tech, you can’t just go get a name. You have to be on the cutting edge. And try to find that guy who is going to be the next great one.
When you played with Kliff, did you foresee he might become a coach someday?
Welker: Absolutely. His leadership, how hard he worked, he understood the game and gets the game, he’s been around a lot of great offenses. He’s been in New Orleans, in New England, he was in Denver during the (Mike) Shanahan days. He understands all these different offenses. You learn along the way, and you learn a lot of different concepts, and how you want to coach, and you kinda develop your own style after seeing all these different coaches. And he’s not afraid to have his own style, either, which I like. You see a lot of coaches who are under certain coaches, and they try to be that coach somewhere else. And that’s not you. You have to be you. And that’s what guys are attracted to and want to play with, guys that are themselves.
Do you feel the hiring of Kliff healed the divide in the Tech family and united the fan base again?
Welker: I think so. I don’t think there was anybody that was against the hiring of Kliff. The only thing you can say is he’s young and doesn’t have that much experience. But you know what, when you’re trying to be on the cutting edge, those are the guys you have to go after.
Were you also glad this hire had a connection to the Mike Leach era?
Welker: I was, because that offense works. It’s definitely something I want us to get back to. And from there, have some good defenses. My buddy Mike Smith, who I played with, who was with the Jets for the past few years, he knows his stuff, and he’s on the defensive staff. And they brought another coach from Texas A&M (Matt Wallerstedt) who will be the d-coordinator with him. Their defense, I think, will be surprisingly good, with that offense.
Will guys like you have more contact with the university with Kliff being the coach?
Welker: Kliff was an usher in my wedding. We’re close. I want him to succeed. I want to see him do well. I want to see my university do well. He came to my foundation event here in Oklahoma City and had the spring game the next day. He flew back that morning for the spring game. He’s just a good dude. Always been a good friend. And I really want to see him succeed.
What is the key to Tech contending for a Big 12 title, maybe not every year, but every other or third year, which they haven’t done in over five years?
Welker: The main thing it comes down to is recruiting, and that’s where I think Kliff and the coaching staff, many guys I played with: Kevin Curtis (cornerbacks), Trey Haverty (special teams/safeties), Sonny Cumbie (co-offensive coordinator/receivers), Mike Smith, all those guys I played with – I know what kind of personalities they are, and I know they’re going to be able to attract really good players.
Does it take a special personality to recruit to Lubbock?
Welker: I don’t know. I think it’s a great college town. It’s one of those deals when you fly in, you’re like, 'Man, where am I going right now?' But once you get into town, you meet the people, you go around the city and get to see everything and hang out with all the guys and good people they have – that’s what makes it. The people around there, the community that’s all about Texas Tech, that’s what makes it. It’s a cool town in that aspect.
Last question – who dresses more G.Q., you or Kliff?
Welker: Does that also mean who dresses more metrosexual? If so, Kliff’s got me beat on that.
20hBrandon Chatmon and Jake Trotter