May 14, 2009

Dream offer arrives for Welch

Alex Welch found it hard to resist.

After waiting a lifetime to earn a scholarship offer from Notre Dame, one finally arrived Thursday morning during a conversation with head coach Charlie Weis. From there, the obvious question for this 6-foot-5, 225-pound tight end from Elder High School in Cincinnati, Ohio became why not commit to the Irish right now?

Welch thought about it.

And why not considering his deep ties to Notre Dame's football program? Not only is he a former teammate of sophomore tight end Kyle Rudolph, Welch is also the nephew of former Irish linebacker Steve Heimkreiter, whose 398 career tackles are good for third most in Notre Dame history.

"That's how all my family feels, to be honest with you," Welch said. "It's almost expected that I'm already there, that I've signed my letter. When you get an offer from a school that same day, you're so high on that school that you really can see yourself there."

Welch compared the emotion of Notre Dame's offer to a scholarship he picked up a day earlier when Oklahoma offered the four-star tight end. Michigan, Florida State, Wisconsin, Boston College and Stanford are among Welch's nearly two dozen other offers.

But there's no doubt the offer from Notre Dame felt different.

"That was probably the most excited I've been of any offer I have received," Welch said. "It was the one school I'd been waiting for. My uncle played there. I grew up a Notre Dame fan. That's been a dream school of mine. Then going to high school, watching Kyle go through the process and he chose Notre Dame. That's the school I've been waiting for. I was hoping for this offer."

After getting the scholarship Thursday morning, Welch spent his evening with Rudolph. Welch wanted to know more about the Irish and Rudolph wanted to know what he could do to make sure his former teammate would become his future teammate.

"He was excited," Welch said. "We was trying to talk me into it. He wants me there.

"No. 1, we talked about the coaches. He talked about how genuine and true they are with you. Also with the team, he talked about how they're his best friends now. Some of them are coming down to hang out with him during their time off, even though they'll all be back together soon. I could see myself fitting in, those types of guys are the same as me."

Welch will see for himself next month when he visits Notre Dame after checking out last season's victory over Stanford. Welch said he might visit Oklahoma as well along with a few other programs. Despite the euphoria of landing a scholarship from the Irish, Welch doesn't want to rush his decision, even if everyone else is telling him to do just that.

"I'm making this decision," Welch said. "I'm going to be the one that's there."

As for how Welch would fit into Notre Dame's program, he'd join a potentially stocked position. He said he's been told the Irish only want to sign one tight end this year. With the endorsement of defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta, Welch might be that one.

Tenuta recently visited Elder to check on Welch and said an offer from the Irish probably wouldn't be coming soon. But the more Tenuta watched Welch's tape, the more he wanted to speed up that process.

"He kept watching my tape and took it into coach Weis' office and said he needed to watch a little more and that he thought we should offer him a scholarship," Welch said. "Coach Weis said he was very impressed, not only with my football talent but with my grades too.

"I was very excited."

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