Clovis senior Nick Welsh is tied for sixth on the team with 22 tackles and leads the team with five passes defended. (staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Rick White: CNJ managing editor
Straddling a bench in the Clovis locker room before practice, Nick Welsh grows increasingly agitated about questions directed at his size.
Although he could easily walk the halls of any junior high and not draw a second look, he doesn’t understand the fuss being made over his small stature.
No, the senior Wildcats cornerback and the wide receiver said, he doesn’t consider his size a handicap.
“Low pad wins,” he said as if he was reciting one of Newton’s laws of physics.
No, he doesn’t think about the fact that he routinely gives up a half foot and 50 pounds in a game predicated on violent collisions, nor does he wonder what it would like to be bigger.
Waste of time, he said. “The bigger they are, the harder I like to hit them.”
Generously listed at 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, Welsh is tied for sixth on the team with 22 tackles and leads the team with five passes defended. He was credited for six tackles and a caused fumble in his first varsity start in last week’s 31-0 win over Goddard. Against Rio Rancho, he spent most of the game matched up against 6-4, 215-pound wide receiver Wade Morris.
“They tried to pick on him the last couple of weeks and he stepped to every challenge,” Clovis defensive coordinator coach Darren Kelley said. “He’s not afraid to block (Welsh also plays wide receiver) and he’s not afraid to come up and hit someone.
“He’s just got a big heart.”
The Wildcats (3-3) had a bye this week before opening District 4-5A play Friday at Carlsbad.
Wildcats junior strong safety Devin Sweet said Welsh quickly showed just how tough he was in two-a-day practices.
“He was playing running back on the scout team and the harder we hit him the harder he ran,” the 6-3, 190-pound Sweet said.
“He might be small, but he’ll knock your head off.”
Sweet said it’s fun to watch game film and see a big guy kind of going through the motions and then seeing Welsh “come up a 100 mph and hit him.”
“He’s not afraid to go up against anybody on the team,” Sweet said. “He knows how to bring the hat.”
Kelley admits he overlooked Welsh because of his size.
“I wasn’t sure he could help us,” he said.
Over time Welsh’s work ethic and determination changed his coach’s mind.
“The first thing that catches your eye about him is his quickness,” Kelley said. “And then when you watch him on film and see him fly up and make a play.
“He just takes care of business and continues to work hard.”
Sadie Moore has a simple explanation for her grandson’s competitive fire.
“He’s a Taurus,” she said. “He’s always on the go.”
Welsh lives with his grandparents. His mother and younger brother live in Albuquerque, but Welsh wanted to spend his senior year at Clovis High.
Moore attends her grandson’s games with her husband Ted, a retired corrections officer and former high school football player in Ohio.
Moore said she never worries about her grandson being one of the smallest players on the team.
“Not at all,” Moore said. “We know how tough he is.”
His strong work ethic is not limited to sports.
He works five days a week at a local music and book store to pay for his vehicle and insurance.
“He’s just a good kid,” Moore said. “He goes to school, he works. He’s up bright and early every day ready to go.”
Every year there’s a player or two that surprise the coaching staff by how far they’ve matured and developed between their sophomore to senior years, Kelley said.
Welsh is one of them.
Now opponents are learning the hard way what Welsh’s coaches and teammates already know — what the diminutive senior lacks in size he more than makes up for with toughness and desire.