Rather than just being a backup quarterback last season, Mike Welcer changed positions to help benefit the team.
Mike Welcer learned how to be a teammate in the shadow of disappointment.
After spending his first two seasons at Riverview as the Rams freshman and JV quarterback, Welcer was poised to step into the same role last season — his first at the varsity level.
Then senior quarterback Dominic Caldwell, now a freshman at Florida International University, had the same idea.
With a year of varsity experience, Caldwell was named the Rams’ starting quarterback heading into the 2015 season.
The news was disappointing for Welcer, who had been playing quarterback since his father, Mark, signed him up for football when he was 7 years old.
At that point, Welcer could’ve hung up his cleats. He could’ve transferred to another program in need of a quarterback.
Instead, Welcer was willing to do whatever it took to help Riverview win games. Even if it meant breaking outside of his comfort zone. In addition to being the Rams’ backup quarterback, Welcer also played tight end and was a part of Riverview’s kickoff and punt return coverage teams.
“It taught me how to be a teammate,” Welcer said. “I also learned how to try and unite the offense, and even the defense to some extent, and play as one. If you focus on your individual self, then the team won’t get where you want it to be.”
Welcer’s willingness to move positions for the betterment of the team didn’t go unnoticed.
Heading into spring football in May, Riverview coach Todd Johnson named Welcer as the Rams’ next starting quarterback.
“It’s neat to see,” Johnson said. “He kept working and earned the quarterback job. He’s a leader and his teammates rally around him.”
Now in his fourth year with the program, the Rams’ 18-year-old signal caller is hoping to bring another championship back to Riverview.
As the leader of the offense, Welcer recognizes that he will be scrutinized every Friday this fall. He has to be prepared to play his best and lead not only on game day but also during practice.
While the Rams future this season hinges in part on Welcer’s arm, that doesn’t mean the senior is treated any differently.
During one of Riverview’s practices prior to its Kickoff Classic against Lakewood Ranch Aug. 19, Welcer fumbled. As a result, Welcer spent time after practice completing a fumble drill, during which Welcer would run five yards, fall to the ground on his stomach, get back up and run another five yards, repeating the process for the entire length of the football down and back.
“It’s so hard for me,” Welcer said. “It doesn’t happen very often.”
He wasn’t about to have to do the same drill twice. Welcer protected the football against the Mustangs, throwing for a touchdown and also rushing for a 1-yard score in the second quarter before turning the ball over to Riverview’s JV squad for the second half. The Rams went on to win the game 20-7.
“He brings a competitive fire and edge to the team,” Johnson said. “He’s tough and intense and loves the game of football.”
Competition is what drew Welcer to football initially and what continues to fuel him every day in practice. Welcer grew up watching the great quarterbacks play on Sunday afternoons on the NFL Network. He wears No. 12 in honor of legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach.
As with many high school quarterbacks, Welcer has aspirations of playing in college; but with this being his only chance to start at the varsity level, Welcer is focused on showing what he’s capable of this season while helping his teammates become the best players they can be.
“It’s finally my time,” Welcer said.
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