Every professional athlete has a different story and path that led him or her to their dream of playing at the most elite level in sports. Stories of hardships, injuries and determination are ones that inspire not just the athletes, but the fans who aspire to be like their favourite sports hero. For New England Patriots wide receiver, Wes Welker, his journey to the NFL was different, yet similar to many of his co-workers. Welker was never drafted into the league but was signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Diego Chargers in 2004. Welker made it out of camp but was cut from the team after the first game of the season; later being signed by Miami. Walker then joined the Patriots in a trade during the 2007 season where he made an immediate impact on and off the field.
Since joining the Patriots, Welker has been selected for the Pro Bowl three times and is a three-time All-Pro selection, while leading the NFL with receptions on two different occasions. He also started the Wes Welker Foundation in 2006, with the goal of aiding at-risk youth in Oklahoma City through sports and athletics by demonstrating proper leadership and respect. The Foundation stresses the importance of athletics within the education system and provides an outlet which keeps kids out of trouble and propels them into a productive and beneficial lifestyle.
With many educational facilities and schools cutting down their athletic programs and after-school extracurricular activities due to low funding, the Wes Welker Foundation provides grants to schools and organizations that are seeking funding for equipment, fields and uniforms, among many other essentials. To create a successful and positive atmosphere for many at-risk youth, the presence of positive role models is a key component; which the Wes Welker Foundation stresses at each camp and event they host. This layout has created a future goal for the Foundation, which is a coach and leadership development program that teaches the importance of good and positive coaching while being a leader and role model. The program will allow the youth the chance of becoming future leaders in their community and a person who never stops giving.
The Foundation initially began by holding an annual football camp each year which was free for many of the children who attended. The camp taught the basics of football while stressing the importance of teamwork and leadership in a simple, yet effective way. Through Wes Welker’s hard work and dedication, the Foundation now takes on a larger role in the community and provides much more than football knowledge and understanding, but the understanding of our community and what it means to be a contributing citizen.
Since the Foundation’s inception in 2006, it has helped thousands of kids take part in extracurricular activities and has provided them with knowledge that can’t be taught in a classroom. In 2008, Welker was the recipient of the POP Warner Inspiration to Youth Award, and has twice been voted for as the recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award which is given to the player who demonstrates being a role model of inspiration, sportsmanship and courage and it is voted on by the players.
Wes Welker has said that he was given a wonderful opportunity while growing up to be not only the best football player he could be, but the best person as well. Through his selflessness and care for others, he has given thousands of children that same opportunity through all walks of life.
To learn more about the Wes Welker Foundation, visit http://www.weswelkerfoundation.org/