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Aggie Hall of Fame Spotlight: Larry Welch

Submitted by Panhandle State Sports Information on 01/26/2017 The 2016 Aggie Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Banquet takes place Friday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom at Panhandle State.The 2016 Aggie Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Banquet takes place Friday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom at Panhandle State.

Goodwell, Okla.—A Special Teams specialist, Larry Welch, joins his 1981 Aggie Football team as an individual inductee into the Class of 2016 in the Aggies Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony and banquet are set to take place Friday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom on the campus of Panhandle State.

Welch said he was very "honored and humbled" upon receiving news of his selection and added, "It caps off my career both as a player and a coach. It just doesn't get any better." A four-year member of the Panhandle State Football team from 1979-1982, Welch earned NAIA honors as the Aggies' punter all three years that he started at that position. He was named All-District IX Honorable Mention in 1980; First Team All-American, First Team All-District IX and Honorable Mention Associated Press All-American in 1981; and All-District IX Second Team in 1982.

As a freshman, Welch also played on the defensive side of the ball as a linebacker and recalls suiting up for a game against McMurry, a nationally ranked team at the time. "I don't think anyone expected much out of us, but we went out there and beat 'em pretty good (16-3). From that point on, I was hooked on being a Panhandle State football player. It was everything I wanted out of football and just the perfect fit for me."

The Munday, Texas native was originally committed to play at Tarleton State in Stephenville, but feels that fate stepped in when Coach Cortez, Coach Lawrence and Coach Wyatt spotted Welch at the Green Belt Bowl in Childress. "They spoke with me after the game and offered me a full ride to come to Panhandle." He commented, "A lot of people talk about how they get to Goodwell and are not quite sure about things, but the people are what ends up keeping them there. For me, I knew on first sight that it was the right place for me."

When not on the playing field, Welch could be found working at the stockyards and spending time at the Baptist Student Union where he enjoyed the ice cream, hot dogs and hamburgers they would serve to students. Also, a member of the O-Club, an athletics organization on campus, Welch made the most of his college years and has many fond memories of his Panhandle days and the people that made them so special. "The people just take you in there, and treat you like their own."

From community members, to coaches, to the president of the university, Welch recalls countless occasions with his campus family and friends. "Our whole 1981 team is still really close and I still keep in touch with many people from Goodwell." When asked who his biggest influence was during that time he quickly calls out, "David Flowers." "David totally took me under his wing and showed me how to act on the field and off," Flowers was a senior during Welch's freshman year. Adding, "Of course there were others who also really helped shape me, like Coach Wyatt who taught me how to treat people and demonstrated how a coach should act." Coach Lawrence and Dr. Palmer, the school's president at the time, also had pieces of influence on his life. "When you come into college at 17 years old, you need some leaders to help guide you. I was blessed to have many."

The Aggies' Offensive Line Coach, Mike Wyatt played a big part in Welch's athletic success and transitioned him to a full-time punter by his third year with the team. Although he admits he wasn't completely thrilled to be taken off linebacker duty, Welch had strong faith in his coach. Wyatt believed that special teams accounted for one-third of the game and said that, "We have to win it every game." Wyatt's reasoning for keeping Welch within the special teams unit was that he didn't want to risk losing him to injury and wanted to keep special teams "on top of things." "Looking back I realized it was the smart thing to do," Welch added.

While thinking back on certain games, and certain moments on the playing field, Welch shared two fond tales. The first being from the 1980 season when the Aggies traveled to the University of Nueva Leon to compete in the Mexico Bowl. "Pretty much everything that could go wrong did. Our bus broke down on the way there; I think a wheel fell off, we had a hassle at the border checkpoints, and then it started raining. It rained throughout the whole game; the ball was floating on the field towards the end of it." The Aggies, who were 7-3 on the season, took a 14-0 loss that day. Welch ads that, while it was miserable at the time, now he just giggles and laughs when he thinks of that game.

The second story was of the game-winning field goal he kicked against Chadron State in a game that helped the Aggies seal the eighth win of their undefeated 1981 season. "In my mind, we had done it all week long in practice and I was just doing my job. Everything went perfectly, the snap, the hold…it really didn't hit me or make me nervous until after the game when I realized what I had just done." He credits his calmness under pressure to the coaches saying, "Coach Lawrence always had us well-prepared." Welch also shares that "that team was just special. I think we had the number one defense in the country that year, only giving up an average of 99 yards per game. I was fortunate to play with so many great guys, the list is just too long."

Welch's school record for the longest punt (88 yards) still stands today, another proud memory for the Panhandle alum. Graduating with a degree in Agribusiness in 1983, he went on to earn his teaching certificate from Texas State (then, Southwest Texas State University). The player-turned-coach is back home teaching for the Munday Independent School District and coaching junior high and high school football and track. He serves as the Special Teams Coordinator and coaches both the offensive and defensive lines at the 2A school. As a coach Welch has earned one state championship in football and three in track; he was also honored with the Lamar Award for Teaching last year.

He and his wife Annelle have been married over 37 years and boast three daughters, three grandchildren and a lively group of 80 nieces and nephews. Welch is looking forward to bringing a big group with him to the induction ceremony to share in his recognition. He offered a few words of wisdom to current and aspiring young athletes saying "Work hard and take care of your business. If you take care of the little things, than the big things that come along won't seem so tough to tackle."

Three other athletes will join Larry Welch at the Feb. 3 Aggies Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Banquet; Cathy Donald-Whitfield, Manny Acosta and Frank Beede will also enter the Class of 2016. Tickets are available and those interested in attending can contact Jerry Olson at 580-349-1344 or by email at Seating is limited, so reservations are encouraged.

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