When Jack Welch watches the NFL, it is like flipping through an old yearbook.
Copperas Cove’s longtime head football coach sees familiar faces throughout the league as former players dot the sport’s landscape, with some serving as the face of their franchise.
Four Bulldawgs standouts of the past currently grace NFL rosters, leaving Welch overwhelmed every time he sees a highlight of his boys, who have grown into men on the football field.
“I’m as proud as a peacock,” he said. “It really makes me proud; it gives me energy and gives me goose bumps.”
Some consider Copperas Cove’s program to be a football factory of sorts, turning out numerous professional-caliber players. League sensation Robert Griffin III and defensive superstar Charles Tillman are the Bulldawgs’ most recognizable products, but the list goes on.
Additionally, former Copperas Cove players James Ritchey (Tennessee), Howard Hodges (San Diego), Vontez Duff (Houston), T.J. Hollowell (New York Giants), Logan Brock (Houston), Josh Boyce (New England) and Brelan Chancellor (San Diego) have all reached the NFL during Welch’s tenure.
While hard work, determination and pure talent are responsible for each player making it to the sport’s ultimate stage, along the way, Welch and his staff were willing to knock on any door to help them achieve their goal. He believes simply providing opportunities is what separates Copperas Cove from other programs when it comes to producing professional players.
“I think that one of the things that has helped us is the ability to get our kids recruited,” Welch said. “One of the things I’ve seen over the years is so many great players don’t have a place to go. We have worked extremely hard over the years (to get players into colleges).”
Although Copperas Cove has a propensity to start NFL careers, the program’s number of players that compete collegiately is far more impressive with more than 230 Bulldawgs emerging on college rosters over the past 20 years.
Much of the credit goes to offensive coordinator/assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator Tracy Welch, who filled a similar a role under Jack Welch at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College prior to the pair arriving at Copperas Cove in 1994.
“When we came to high school, we had developed a recruiting type of plan to get information out to colleges and to keep information on our players and to make all that available,” Jack Welch said. “Tracy starts when they are freshmen.
“Some people think, ‘My gosh, it just happens.’ It doesn’t happen just by chance, it happens because of hard work.”
Often, like in life, however, it is not always about what you know, but rather, who you know.
With years of college experience, including stops at Taylor University, West Texas State, Kansas Wesleyan, Fort Scott and Louisiana Tech, Jack Welch has developed a network of connections
On top of that, Jack Welch’s resume, along with those of fellow Copperas Cove coaches, carries weight among theirpeers.
“When we tell somebody, ‘I guarantee you this boy can play, coach,’” Jack Welch said. “Well, that means something.
“Look at our coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Reb Brock has coached on a national championship football team (Glendale Community College, 1988). Tracy Welch coached at Kansas State University. Those things help. It gives you credibility that you know what you’re talking about.”
While each player earned his spot in the NFL, Jack Welch believes his program gives young men the skills and discipline to thrive as they chase their dreams, but he is always willing to assist whenever he can, possibly helping to provide a life-changing opportunity.
A few years ago, Jack Welch recalls having a Division I coach in his office, telling him about a player who was being ignored and promising he could play at the next level. Without even watching film on the player, the coach offered him a spot on the team.
“That young man — Brelan Chancellor — just signed with the San Diego Chargers,” Jack Welch said. “A lot of people were overlooking him because he was too short and thought he was too small, but we believed he could play. It was because of a relationship and the coach respecting our opinion and knowing that we knew what it took.”