Monday, October 3, 2011
Welch latest to showcase versatility
By Chris Forsberg
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesPatriots offensive lineman Thomas Welch earned reps as a second tight end Sunday in Oakland.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There was almost assuredly a time during his high school football days that Thomas Welch aspired to be the next Tom Brady (or at least the next Steve McNair, given he grew up in Brentwood, Tenn.) Unfortunately, an injury to Welch's throwing shoulder sacked those dreams before graduation, forcing Welch to transition to tight end.
His 6-foot-7 frame caught the attention of Vanderbilt University and he worked at that spot as a redshirt freshman. But injuries along the offensive line left coaches morphing him into an offensive tackle during his early collegiate years and as the quarterback-turned-tight end-turned-offensive tackle put it Monday, "I was a convert, but everything ended up working out."
It was those days as a tight end that gave the Patriots inspiration to utilize Welch at that position Sunday in Oakland. Welch, decked out in No. 66, appeared as a pass-eligible tight end on 24 snaps and, while he never released into a passing route, he helped New England's ground game pile up 183 yards overall.
"I played some tight end in college, but it's been at least four years [since he played tight end]," Welch said Monday. "Mostly I was just blocking, so it’s pretty similar to O-line. But going in motion, I had to remember how to do that a little bit. I had to dig into the memory bank little bit."
Welch's NFL career hasn't lacked for excitement. Drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round (208th overall) of the 2010 draft, he was among the team's final cuts last year and ultimately latched on with the Vikings' practice squad. He was elevated to Minnesota's active roster in mid-December, but was inactive for the final three games of the season.
One of the Vikings' final cuts this September, he latched back on with New England's practice squad. Soon after, with New England thin on tackles, he was elevated to the active roster for the season-opener in Miami. Two days later, he went through the process of being cut, clearing waivers, and re-signing with the Patriots' practice squad. Then with New England thin on tight ends in recent weeks, he got the call up again versus Oakland.
"It’s been a crazy couple weeks," said the 24-year-old Welch. "I'm glad I'm here and whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do... They said they needed someone to come in, throw some blocks. Obviously, we have some people down, so they told me to be ready and I was."
How long he remains on the 53-man roster is uncertain, but he's proving to be a valuable and versatile resource. Heck, he wouldn't be opposed if they wanted to send him out on some receiving routes down the road.
"That would be nice," Welch said with a laugh. "But I’ll let them decide what they need me to do."