Despite being undrafted, Welker had a successful career. Only one player in NFL history, Gale Sayers, had more all-purpose yards in his first three NFL seasons than Welker did with the Dolphins; Welker holds the Dolphins' all-time records for total kickoff returns, kickoff return yardage, and total punt returns. Welker also holds the record for most receptions by any undrafted player in NFL history, passing Rod Smith in 2014. He retired with 16,797 all-purpose yards.
As a Patriot, Welker led the league in receptions in 2007, 2009, and 2011. Welker holds the four highest single-season reception totals in Patriots' history, as well as four of the top 10 receiving yardage totals, including the franchise record. He also holds the franchise records for most receptions in a single game, most receiving yards in a single game, longest reception, and career receptions. Welker, who had three consecutive 110-reception seasons (and has five total), is the first receiver in NFL history with at least three 110-reception seasons, and the first with five 100-reception seasons. Welker was selected to the Pro Bowl, the All-Pro Team, or both, in every season of his Patriots career.
Welker started his football career at Heritage Hall High School in Oklahoma City. In his junior year, he helped lead the Chargers to the 2A State Football championship over Tishomingo High School. In that game, Welker had three touchdowns, over 200 all-purpose yards, a 47-yard field goal, and an interception. Also, in 1999, he was named The Daily Oklahoman All-State Player of the Year, as well as Oklahoma State Player of the Year by USA Today.
Welker played in the 2000 Oil Bowl, scoring a 40-yard field goal for the Oklahoma team. Out of high school, Welker was not recruited heavily, as he was considered to be too small to play at the college level. However, after a recruit at Texas Tech backed out of his scholarship, it was offered to Welker. Said Welker of the experience:
"I was thinking I'd get a scholarship somewhere. When it didn't happen when it was supposed to, on signing day, I was pretty hurt by it. … In the end, I don't think I could've picked a better school than Texas Tech."
At Heritage Hall, Welker was a prolific contributor on offense, defense, and special teams. As a running back, he scored 80 touchdowns (53 rushing and 27 receiving). As a defensive back, he had 190 tackles, 22 interceptions (three of which he returned for touchdowns), and nine fumble recoveries. As a punt returner, he scored seven touchdowns. As a kicker, he kicked 35 field goals and 165 extra points. His longest field goal was 58 yards.
While attending Texas Tech University, Welker played for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. His last-minute signing proved to be very beneficial for the Red Raider football team. Based on a highlight reel from high school, Welker earned the nickname "The Natural," given to him by his recruiter, and then running backs coach at Texas Tech, Art Briles, before his freshman year for his versatility and big-game performances. Over his four-year career, he had 259 receptions for 3,019 yards and 21 touchdowns and 79 rushes for 456 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored eight touchdowns returning punts in his career, still tied for the NCAA record.
In 2003, Welker won the Mosi Tatupu Award, given annually to the best special teams player in college football. Welker was also named to the Sports Illustrated All-Decade Team as a punt returner.
After his senior season at Texas Tech, Welker was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.
Welker, who went undrafted during the 2004 NFL Draft, signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Diego Chargers. Welker made the Chargers out of training camp, but was released after the first game of the season when the Chargers claimed safety Clinton Hart off waivers. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer later acknowledged that in terms of roster cuts, releasing Welker was the "biggest mistake [he] ever made."
After the Chargers released Welker, he passed through waivers. Although the Chargers offered him a slot on their practice squad, Welker chose to sign with the Miami Dolphins instead, where he was mostly used on special teams. Playing against the New England Patriots on October 10, 2004, Welker became the second player in NFL history to return a kickoff and a punt, kick an extra point and a field goal, and make a tackle in a single game. On December 20, Welker had a 71-yard punt return to set up Miami's first touchdown in a 29–28 victory over the Patriots on Monday Night Football.
During training camp at the beginning of the 2005 season, Welker was promoted to the third wide receiver spot after Chris Chambers and Marty Booker. He finished the 2005 season with 29 receptions for 434 yards, but did not score a touchdown. He also had 43 punt returns for 390 yards, a 9.1-yard average (11th in the NFL), and 61 kickoff returns for 1,379 yards, a 22.6-yard average (20th in the NFL).
After rumors that he would be cut during the preseason, Welker started off being the lone bright spot in the struggling Dolphins' offense. Through five games, he netted a team-high 29 catches and team-high 299 yards. On October 8, 2006, he was a huge target for back-up quarterback Joey Harrington, recording a then career-high nine catches for 77 yards in a 20–10 loss to the Patriots. For the season, he had a team-best 67 receptions for 687 yards and one touchdown. He returned 48 kickoffs for 1,048 yards (22.2 average) and 41 punts for 378 yards (9.2 average).
On March 1, 2007, the Dolphins offered Welker, a restricted free agent, a second-round tender (the second-lowest tender) of $1.35 million for a one-year contract. News reports indicated the New England Patriots, who were interested in Welker, had originally considered signing him to an offer sheet (Miami would have had seven days to match the offer); according to The Boston Globe, that sheet would have contained a poison pill provision that would have made the offer difficult for the Dolphins to match. Ultimately, however, the Patriots decided not to use such an offer and traded their 2007 second-round and seventh-round draft picks to the Dolphins for Welker.
Welker's first season as a Patriot eclipsed his 2006 season as a Dolphin; he bettered his totals for receptions, touchdowns, and yardage in his first ten games. In Week 1, he caught the first of the Patriots' record 75 touchdowns, equaling the one receiving touchdown he had scored in his three seasons with the Dolphins. He set career highs for single-game yardage three times in 2007: in the Patriots' Week 6 win against the Dallas Cowboys, Welker had 11 catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns (all career bests); the next week, against the Dolphins, he had nine catches for 138 yards and two more touchdowns (the most receiving yards of any NFL player that week); and in Week 12, against the Philadelphia Eagles, he had 13 receptions for 149 yards. In Week 15, against the New York Jets, Welker reached 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career; in Week 16, against the Dolphins, he recorded his 101st reception of the season, tying the Patriots franchise record set by Troy Brown in 2001.
In Week 17, against the Giants, he caught 11 more passes, setting the Patriots franchise record for catches with 112, and tying Bengals receiver T. J. Houshmandzadeh for most receptions in the 2007 NFL season. He also set an NFL record for most catches in a first season with a new team. Welker, who finished the season with 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns, received one vote for NFL Offensive Player of the Year, an award won by his quarterback, Tom Brady, and was voted to his first AP All-Pro Team (second team).
In his first two postseason games, Welker had 16 receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He tied the then Super Bowl record of 11 receptions in a single game in the Patriots' 17–14 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
Despite the season-ending injury to quarterback Tom Brady in Week 1, he continued to amass receptions at the same pace through the first half of the season with Matt Cassell: through eight games, he had 56 receptions, but only one touchdown reception. He had six or more receptions in each of the Patriots' first 11 games, breaking Jimmy Smith's mark of eight games at the start of the Jacksonville Jaguars' 2001 season.
Welker had what was, at the time, the longest pass play of his NFL career in the Patriots' 48–28 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Week 12: on 2nd-and-8 from their own 15, Welker caught a 5-yard pass from Matt Cassel, before eluding a pair of defenders tip-toeing and running down the left sideline to the Miami 21, for a total of 64 yards, 59 yards after the catch. Welker broke the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season in Week 14 against the Seattle Seahawks, catching 12 passes for 134 yards, and catching a pass on the Patriots' two-point conversion. He finished the season with a league-leading 96 receptions, for 1,002 yards (ninth in the NFL, third in the AFC). Against the Oakland Raiders a week later, Welker became the first player in Patriots history, and the eighth in NFL history, to have back-to-back 100-reception seasons; the previous player to do it was his teammate Randy Moss, while he was a Viking, in 2002 and 2003, and Brandon Marshall accomplished the feat in the same seasons as Welker.
Welker was fined $10,000 by the NFL for celebrating a December 21 touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals by lying down in the snow by the endzone and using his body to make a snow angel, violating a recent NFL rule change making going to ground after a touchdown unsportsmanlike conduct.
Welker was selected to attend the 2009 Pro Bowl as a reserve, and was again named to the AP All-Pro Second Team.
Welker was sidelined in Weeks 2 and 3 (against the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons, respectively) with a knee injury; rookie wide receiver Julian Edelman took his place in the lineup. In the Week 6 game against the Tennessee Titans on October 18, Welker caught 10 passes for 150 yards, a new career high (at the time), and two touchdowns. The second of Welker's touchdowns was Tom Brady's NFL record fifth touchdown in a single quarter.
Welker set career marks again in the Patriots' Week 11 rematch against the Jets: targeted 17 times, he caught 15 passes — at the time the highest single-game total for any player in the NFL in 2009 — for 192 yards, and added 11 rushing yards on a reverse. In Week 13 against the Dolphins, Welker recorded 167 receiving yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the third straight season. Against the Miami Dolphins in Week 13, Welker tallied 167 yards on 10 catches, including a season long 58-yard reception over the middle.
In the Patriots' Week 14 win at home against the Carolina Panthers, Welker caught 10 passes (out of 19 total completions for Brady) for 105 yards. This gave him 105 receptions in just 11 games and Welker lead the NFL in receptions at that point. The performance also made Welker the fourth receiver in NFL history (after Jerry Rice, Herman Moore, and Marvin Harrison, and tied with Brandon Marshall who did it in the same seasons as Welker) to catch 100 passes in three consecutive seasons.
In Week 16, Welker caught 13 passes, giving him 7 games with double digit receptions. This gave him the record for most double digit reception games in a single season, passing Marvin Harrison. He accomplished this despite missing two games earlier in the season.
In a Week 17 loss to the Houston Texans, Welker suffered a knee injury after getting hit by Bernard Pollard in the first quarter while running upfield to make his only reception of the game. He suffered a torn MCL and ACL in his left knee and was placed on injured reserve on January 6, 2010.
Welker finished the season with a league-high 123 receptions (the second-highest total in NFL history) and finished second in yardage, behind Houston's Andre Johnson. He was also selected to represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year, and, for the first time in his career, was named to the All-Pro First Team. Because of the knee injury he could not play in the Pro Bowl, and was replaced on the Pro Bowl roster by teammate Randy Moss.
Welker rehabilitated his knee during the 2010 offseason with the goal of being ready for the 2010 season opener, while many analysts expected that he would start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and some even speculated that he would miss the entire 2010 season.
Nevertheless, Welker played in the Patriots' Week 1 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and led all Patriots receivers with 8 catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns; those catches included Brady's first pass attempt of the season and his first touchdown pass.
In the Patriots' Week 9 loss to the Cleveland Browns, after an injury to kicker Stephen Gostkowski, Welker was asked to kick an extra point for the first time since he did so in 2004 against the Patriots; he converted the attempt.
Welker, who had two touchdown catches in the Patriots' 45–24 win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, finished the 2010 season with 86 receptions for 848 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games played (11 starts). He was named to the 2011 Pro Bowl as an injury replacement to Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson.
In the playoff loss to the New York Jets, Welker was benched for the teams' first offensive series for making a series of foot references in a press conference that took shots at a foot fetish of Jets' coach Rex Ryan.
In the Patriots' 38–24 Week 1 win over the Miami Dolphins, Welker caught a 99-yard pass from Tom Brady. Tying the NFL record for longest play from scrimmage, it was the 12th such play in NFL history, and the first for the Patriots. The play accounted for the majority of Welker's yards in an 8-catch effort for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
In Week 3, in the Patriots' 34–31 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Welker had 16 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns. In so doing, he tied wide receiver Troy Brown's franchise record of 16 receptions in a single game and broke Terry Glenn's franchise record of 214 yards, set in 1999. The game also marked Welker's 64th consecutive regular-season game with a reception (i.e., in every game he has played as a Patriot), breaking tight end Ben Coates's record of 63 games (set 1992 to 1996). It was Welker's second game with at least 15 receptions, a feat equaled only by Brandon Marshall with the Denver Broncos.
In Week 5, in the Patriots' win over the Jets, Welker caught five passes for 124 yards, including a 73-yard catch-and-run in which Welker beat Eric Smith and was chased down by Darrelle Revis at the 8-yard line.
In Week 14, against the Washington Redskins, Welker recorded his 100th reception of the season, giving him four seasons with at least 100 receptions, tying the NFL record shared by Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice. He also set a personal best with his ninth receiving touchdown. In the Patriots' Week 16 rematch against the Dolphins, Welker had 12 receptions for 138 yards, bringing him to a franchise-record 1,518 receiving yards, besting Randy Moss' 2007 record of 1,493 yards.
Through 15 games, Welker led the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, yards per game, and receptions for first downs, and ranked in the top five in receiving touchdowns and receptions of 20 yards or more. He finished the season with 122 receptions (tied for fourth-highest total in NFL history), 1,569 receiving yards and 98.5 yards per game (both second to Calvin Johnson), and 77 receptions for first down (tied with Johnson for the NFL lead). He also had a career-high 9 touchdown receptions. The Patriots reached Super Bowl XLVI where they would face the New York Giants in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII. In the Super Bowl, Welker had 7 catches for 60 yards, but the Patriots would lose to the Giants again, this time by a score of 21-17.
In the Patriots' Week 1 win over the Tennessee Titans, Welker tied former Patriots receiver Troy Brown's franchise record for receptions; he took sole possession of the franchise record for receptions a week later against the Arizona Cardinals. During the Week 13 game against the Miami Dolphins, Welker, with, 12 receptions, set the NFL record for the most games with 10 or more receptions, tying him with 49ers legend and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. It was his 17th game completing this task. He also set the NFL record for most games with 10 or more catches and 100 or more yards. With his 16th such performance, he moved ahead of Jerry Rice and Andre Johnson. Welker ended the season tied with Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall for second in receptions with 118, behind Detroit's Calvin Johnson.
After joining the Patriots in 2007, Welker caught more passes than any player in the league, and ranks in the top five in yardage. Welker reached 500 receptions with the Patriots in just 70 games, an NFL record. Welker holds the franchise record for consecutive games with receptions, having caught a pass in every game (regular season and postseason) he has played as a Patriot. As of Week 2 of the 2012 regular season, Welker also holds the all-time Patriots franchise record for receptions, breaking in just 79 games the record of Troy Brown who played more than twice as many games as a Patriot (192 regular-season games). Welker ranks third in receiving yards behind Brown and Stanley Morgan.
On March 13, 2013, Welker signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Denver Broncos. Welker's signing with Denver was a result of Welker and the New England Patriots being unable to agree to a contract.
In his debut with the Broncos, Welker had nine receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns against the Baltimore Ravens. Through Week 11, he had 50 receptions for 555 yards and nine touchdowns. By Week 11, Welker had more touchdowns than he had the entire previous season with New England (six), and as many as he had in any season with the Patriots (nine). He caught a touchdown pass in 8 of the first 10 games of the 2013 season.
In a game against the Tennessee Titans, Welker took a hit to the head on a play across the middle late in the second quarter, and his neck bent awkwardly on the play. Welker previously suffered a concussion in Week 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs. He did not play for the rest of the regular season. On December 30, the day after Denver's 34-14 victory over Oakland, head coach John Fox announced that Welker was cleared to play the Broncos divisional playoff against the San Diego Chargers on January 12, 2014.
On January 19, Welker earned his third AFC Championship win and Super Bowl appearance after he helped the Broncos defeat his former team, New England Patriots, 26-16, but failed to get his first Super Bowl ring. The Broncos lost to the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII, being the third Super Bowl loss of Welker's career. He had 8 catches for 84 yards in the loss.
During the third preseason game on August 23, Welker was diagnosed with a concussion after a hit by Texans safety D.J. Swearinger, his third in 10 months. On September 2, the NFL suspended Welker for the first four games of the 2014 NFL season for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy after he failed a drug test due to amphetamines. On September 12, Welker's suspension was lifted due to the NFL's new drug policy. Welker made his season debut in week 3. He had 6 catches for 60 yards in an overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. In a Week 7 game against the Arizona Cardinals on October 5, Welker passed Rod Smith for the most receptions by an undrafted player in NFL history. In a game against the San Francisco 49ers, Welker caught his first touchdown of the season and it was Peyton Manning's 508th career touchdown pass, which tied Brett Favre for the most all-time.
On November 9, 2015, the St. Louis Rams signed Welker to a one-year, $1.8 million contract including incentives. He appeared in eight games, but started none, and had 13 receptions for 102 yards for the Rams in the 2015 season. The 2015 season would be Welker's last in the NFL as a player.
Source: Pro-Football-Reference.comMost seasons with 105+ receptions: 5
Most seasons with 110+ receptions: 5
Most seasons with 115+ receptions: 3
Most seasons with 120+ receptions: 2 (tied with Cris Carter and Antonio Brown)
Most consecutive seasons with 110 receptions: 3 (tied with Antonio Brown)
Most games with 12+ receptions: 9
Most games with 13+ receptions: 5
Most games with 15+ receptions: 2 (tied with Jason Witten, Brandon Marshall, and Antonio Brown)
Most games with 10+ receptions in a season: 7 (tied with Andre Johnson)
Fastest receiver to have 500 catches with one team (New England Patriots) (70 games)
Longest touchdown reception: 99 (2011 vs Miami Dolphins) (tied with 12 others)
Most receptions of any undrafted free agent in NFL history: 903
Most career punt returns without a touchdown: 264
Most career punt return yards without a touchdown: 2,584
Most career kick return yards: 3,756
Most career combined Kick and Punt return yards (4,988)
Most all-purpose yards in a single season: 2,208 (2005)
Most punt return yards in a single season: 464 (2004)
Most career receptions: 672
Most receptions in a single season: 123 (2009)
Most receiving yards in a single season: 1,569 (2011)
Most seasons with 100 receptions or more: 5
Best receiving yards per game average (season): 98.1 (2011)
On January 30, 2017, Welker acquired his first coaching job after the Houston Texans hired him to be an offensive and special teams assistant coach.
Welker was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and is a Christian. Welker is of partial Cherokee descent. He is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and has a grandmother who lives on tribal lands in Sequoyah County, Oklahoma.
While attending Texas Tech University, Welker was a Texas Epsilon chapter member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Welker graduated from Texas Tech University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Management from the Rawls College of Business.
In 2007, Welker established the 83 Foundation (after his NFL uniform number). The foundation, renamed the Wes Welker Foundation in December 2009, states its goal is "to influence at-risk youth, by encouraging their full potential through athletics and positive role models." Its work primarily benefits schools and other organizations in Welker's hometown of Oklahoma City.
In 2012, Welker married former swimsuit model Anna Burns. Welker owns a chestnut colored gelding racehorse called Undrafted, trained by Wesley Ward. In 2014, Undrafted notched his first win in the Grade 3 Jaipur Invitational Stakes at Belmont. Undrafted also won the Group 1 2015 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Ascot Racecourse.