JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Wes Welker played six seasons with Tom Brady. He signed with the Denver Broncos as a free agent in the off-season to play with Peyton Manning.
The former Texas Tech star counts himself a lucky man.
Welker has been good, too, with 745 catches for 8,237 yards and 47 touchdowns as one of the NFL’s most productive receivers over the past seven seasons.
Welker has put up every number except the No. 1.
His desire to win a ring is the reason he signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos after his relationship with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots soured. It is what drives him, “the reason I get up in the morning in the off-season and even now,” Welker said last week.
In two previous appearances in the Super Bowl, his Patriots lost to the New York Giants. In Super Bowl XLVI two years ago, a wide-open Welker dropped a slightly off-target pass from Brady at the New York 23 with 4:06 remaining and the Patriots clinging to a 17-15 lead. The Giants won 21-17.
“The past is the past,” Welker said after arriving at the team hotel Sunday night. “You’ve got to move on and you’ve got an opportunity in front of you, and you’ve just got to make the most of it. Just go out there and play your game. Really, the past is the past, and I’ve moved on from it.”
Welker has no idea how many more chances he’ll get.
He turns 33 in May, and he missed three games with a pair of concussions this season. That’s the same number of games he missed in six years with the Patriots.
“Obviously, it’s something that you worry about, but at the same time, you try not to think about it,” Welker said of the concussions. “You just go out there and try to enjoy the game and have fun with it.”
Welker sounds like Manning when discussing his future: He wants to keep playing as long as he’s able.
“I think so,” Welker said. “We’ll see what happens. I’ve definitely been blessed with 10 more years than I ever thought I would play in the NFL. I’ll just keep on playing until they tell me I can’t anymore.”
Welker arrived at his third Super Bowl wearing a bright orange blazer and blue-and-orange checkered tie. His fashion choice set Twitter ablaze.
But Welker’s style has fit well with the Broncos.
“Wes has stepped in,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “He was voted team captain, and I don’t care who you are — coming to a new team, new teammates — that doesn’t happen very easily. It says a lot to the kind of guy he is, both on and off the field. I think he is an unbelievable competitor and very gritty, and that became obvious to his teammates very early on – how he goes about his business on and off the field and preparation. He has been a tremendous addition, and we are sure glad to have him.”
With Manning spreading the ball around, Welker had his lowest numbers — 73 receptions for 778 yards — since 2006 when he played for the Miami Dolphins. He did, though, have a career-high 10 touchdowns.
And the Broncos went 13-3 in the regular season and have advanced to the Super Bowl. That’s all Welker wanted when the season began – another chance.
“I definitely feel very blessed to have this opportunity, and to be in this situation is very rare,” Welker said. “You really can’t take it for granted. You really just want to make the most of it.”