What I Learned from Wes Welker

by Rob Waldeck | December 18, 2012

NE Patriots 35 – Houston Texans 7
4th quarter
Foxboro, MA

It’s a blowout. The 11-1 Texans came to Foxboro to prove they were for real, that they could be competitive with the perennial powerhouse Patriots who at 9-3 are not only having a great season but for years have been unbeatable in the month of December. Surprisingly, the Texans barely showed up. The Patriots went ahead 21-0 on their first three possessions and Houston rarely threatened.

As the game moved deeper into the 4th Quarter I sat in the stands wondering if we were going to see second-string quarterback Ryan Mallett, Tom Brady’s back-up, inserted into the game. Patriot’s coach Bill Belicheck has proven reluctant to pull his starters from a regular season game but if ever there was a time to let Brady get some rest (after all, he had just welcomed his third child, not yet a week old) and to let Mallett get some work this seemed to be it.

I scanned the sidelines to see if I could find Mallett. Was there any sign he might enter the game? Was clipboard still in hand? Had he shed his baseball cap for his helmet?

Mallett was in fact helmeted and warming up; dropping back along the sideline and zipping passes into the waiting arms of number 83. Wes Welker – the Pats leading receiver and one of the league’s best – was catching Mallett’s passes and lightly tossing them back. As I watched a few more passes I become far more absorbed with Welker than Mallett. What was Welker doing? In the most purposeful way he was positioning himself somewhat awkwardly as each pass approached him – first with his right shoulder forward and on the next pass his left. With each incoming pass he would reach out, attack the ball, secure it in his hands, and aggressively snap the ball back safely into his arms and against his body. I watched over and over as Welker went through this exercise; first one shoulder forward, then the other, his intense focus on the ball and then the ball snatched from the air and securely tucked under his arm.

In the waning moments of a decisive Patriots victory on an unseasonably warm night in December, Wes Welker could have sat on the bench with a big smile high fiving his teammates. He could have pulled the stat sheet and patted himself on the back for a solid performance. He could have turned to the crowd for a little adulation. Instead, Wes Welker was practicing something he has probably done thousands of times. He was repeating over and over again the most basic of moves that one would have thought to be ingrained in his core. Welker was demonstrating the kind of commitment, work ethic, and intensity that makes him great at his chosen profession.

Sunday night Wes Welker reminded me that success never comes easily. That great accomplishment is the direct result of an unwavering and absolute commitment to improving one’s craft. That the pursuit of excellence never ends. And that no matter how much success we have in our careers we must never forget to stay focused on even the smallest details.

Welker’s commitment makes my Sunday afternoons all the more enjoyable. What I learned from Wes Welker is that I have my work cut out for me the rest of the week.