Chargers running man: Wes Welker

When a guy comes along who set his school record for career receptions, fans begin to salivate. Add to that his career receiving yards top school annals and people start wondering if you are rabid. Being the only player in school history to log two 1,000-yard seasons is just icing on the cake. <br><br>Those are the stats of Wes Welker, an undrafted free agent signed by the San Diego Chargers.

So what is the problem with this kid that he went undrafted?

Nothing really, but he was earmarked as being a product of the system. Texas Tech runs a very pass friendly offense and Wes Welker, 5-9 in heels, was the utility man. He had a hybrid role in the offense, playing as a running back, H-back, slot receiver and everywhere in between.

It wasn't that he had straight-line speed, clocking in at 4.7, but Welker was elusive as noted by his numbers. He logged 257 career receptions to go with 3,069 receiving yards. Did we mention that he also returns punts and set records for those accomplishments?

And now the tour bus hits San Diego, where he signed the day after the draft as an undrafted free agent. Receivers looking for an opportunity to make a roster were more than happy to jump on the train to San Diego.

"I think just the situation," Welker confirmed. "Them having only seven receivers on the roster and just getting an opportunity to play out in San Diego. Really just the interest level from the coaches and the signing bonus and things like that was a better deal than a lot of other places. Just the interest level from all the coaches I was excited about."

And the feeling is mutual. Welker owns the record for most punt returns for touchdowns, eight, and also set highs with the single-season record for Punt Returns (57) and Punt Return Yards (752), both coming in 2002.

Welker admits he may have been hindered, in the eyes of scouts, by the scheme Texas Tech runs, but points to his stats as a returner as he explains his position:

"Yeah, I would say it was pretty receiver friendly," Welker said. "People always question my play because of our offense but I return punts and things like that.

"There is nothing special we do on punt returns that makes me look better than I am. Everybody has the same types of returns. Hopefully people will get over that and see my love for the game."

And now that he is a Charger, what role will he play?

"A little bit of both," Welker said of his role. "Playing a little wideout and then returning kicks and punts. Just anywhere I can contribute."

As versatile as he is, Welker could be the man the Chargers have sought to put their own version of Dante Hall on the field. It is something every team has been seeking. Training camp is just around the corner and Welker could be the highlight reel many have been waiting for – a home run threat from the return game.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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