Wes Welker is on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week.
He's the subject of a lengthy profile, too. The story recounts many details of the Oklahoma native's unlikely rise to NFL standout that are familiar in these parts, but because he went largely unrecruited by major colleges, it contends that no one noticed him during his Heritage Hall days.
That ain't true.
Welker was our All-State Offensive Player of the Year as a senior and would've been our Special Teams Player of the Year if we gave out that award and might've been our Defensive Player of the Year if we didn't have an unwritten rule that the offensive and the defensive awards go to different players.
We've long recognized how good he is.
So, here's something else we've noticed about Welker — this guy is on the road to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He doesn't have a hall of fame resume yet, but provided he plays at least four or five more years and avoids injury, Welker will have his bust in Canton. After nine seasons in the league, he already has more receptions than 18 of the 22 wide receivers who are already in the hall, and if he has two or three more seasons like his past few, he'll easily have more yards than most of those hall of famers.
And it's easy to see him having more seasons like he's already had, starting this season.
Welker turned down what many saw as an almost insulting two-year, $10 million deal from the Patriots and signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos this summer. He is now catching passes from Peyton Manning. A future hall of famer himself, Manning has said that Welker reminds him a lot of Reggie Wayne, his big target for a decade in Indianapolis.
Over each of the last seven seasons that Manning and Wayne teamed up, Wayne always had at least 75 catches and more than a thousand yards.
No reason to believe Welker will have any less with Manning in Denver.
By the way, when we have the debate about who's better, Manning or Tom Brady, there'll be no better witness than Welker.
Welker spent the past six seasons with Brady in New England, and you could argue that Welker was more indispensable. Brady missed the 2008 season, and the Patriots still won 11 games with backup Matt Cassel. But last season, when Bill Belichick tried to marginalize Welker by not using him much after the two sides failed to reach a contract extension, New England stumbled out of the blocks to a 1-2 start. Welker caught nine, 13 and 10 passes the next three games, all New England wins that righted the ship on a 12-4 season.
No wonder Manning actively recruited Welker once he became a free agent.
And from the sound of things, the two hit it off quickly. Their personalities are similar, practical jokers off the field but super serious on it.
Welker has long been known for his work ethic, especially during the offseason. He works out like a fiend, and when he's not lifting or running routes or catching balls, he's studying film.
All of that fits perfectly with Manning, known for his exacting ways.
As Chris Ballard, author of the great Sports Illustrated piece, wrote so accurately, Manning and Welker both qualify as football nerds.
That's why you have to think the stats are going to continue to pile up for Welker. He led the league in receptions three of the past six seasons and was second two other seasons. Three of those seasons also rank in the top 10 all-time in NFL history for catches in a season.
It's made him a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time first-team All-Pro.
About the only thing lacking on Welker's resume right now is a Super Bowl win. He played in the big game twice with the Patriots, but they lost both to the Giants.
But it's not far fetched to believe Welker will win that elusive Super Bowl ring in Denver.
Only San Francisco is a bigger favorite among Vegas types to win it all.
We didn't foresee this level of greatness for Welker when he was a 5-foot-9, 185-pound dynamo in high school. Even when he was doing everything for Heritage Hall — and we do mean everything; he played receiver, running back, free safety, kicker and punter — no one could have known he'd become a 5-foot-9, 185-pound dynamo in the NFL.
But we noticed him.
He was impossible to ignore.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.