Perhaps the next player inducted into the Texas Tech Football Ring of Honor should be a player who was iconic and successful at both the college and NFL levels, Wes Welker.
Long before Patrick Mahomes was the program’s favored son, the undersized Welker was a fan-favorite thanks to his penchant for coming up big in critical moments. For instance, no one will ever forget his acrobatic punt return TD down the sideline against Texas A&M in 2002, nor will anyone forget his 14-catch,169-yard, two-TD performance against No. 4 Texas as the Red Raiders pulled the upset later that year.
In all, the Oklahoma native who almost didn’t get a scholarship offer from any major college program would finish his career ranked as the program’s all-time leading receiver with 3,069 total yards. Today, he still sits third on that list.
What’s more, while at Tech, Welker was the nation’s most feared punt returner. Setting the then NCAA all-time records for punt-return TDs (8) and punt-return yardage (1,0761), he was named to the Sports Illustrated All-Decade team as a punt returner.
However, it was his unlikely NFL career that is truly what Welker will be remembered for. That’s because he revolutionized the way the game is played on Sundays.
Proving that diminutive slot receivers can be the focal point of an offense, Welker defied the odds as an undrafted player and paved the way for other small slot receivers to get a shot in the NFL. In fact, his success as an inside receiver made that position one that every NFL team spends significant resources addressing to this very day.
A four-time All-Pro selection and 5-time Pro Bowler, he led the NFL in receptions in 2007, 2009, and 2011. He ended his career with 903 receptions for 9,924 yards and 50 touchdowns. He also racked up 6,722 yards as a kick returner.
If with Mahomes’ induction, Texas Tech has set the precedent of taking a player’s NFL success into consideration for the Ring of Honor, Welker has as good of a case as any Red Raider alum could hope to have. He was at the forefront of the NFL’s spread offense revolution and he almost single-handedly made the slot receiver position a marquee job.
No player in Tech history has done more to change the way the game is played at both the college and NFL levels than Welker. That’s why his name will likely one day be in the Ring of Honor.