Did you know that there was a Cherokee playing in the 2008, 2011, and 2014 Super Bowl games?
Yep. Wes Welker, wide receiver for the Denver Broncos is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Born in Oklahoma City in 1981, Welker played for the Texas Tech Red Raiders in college, and started his NFL career with the San Diego Chargers in 2004. He also played for the Miami Dolphins from 2004 to 2006, and the New England Patriots from 2007 until 2012. The 2013 season was his first with the Denver Broncos.
Welker has set several NFL records, including most games with 10 or more catches and 100 or more yards. With the Patriots, Welker made 500 receptions in just 70 games, another NFL record. In 2013, Welker signed with the Denver Broncos, and despite suffering a concussion and neck injury which took him out of several games, he still managed to make more touchdowns that season than in any of his previous seasons.
The 2014 Super Bowl game wasn’t Welker’s first, but his third. In 2008, Welker tied the record of 11 receptions in a Super Bowl game, though his team, the Patriots, ultimately lost 17–14 to the Giants. In 2011, the Patriots played a Super Bowl rematch against the Giants, and lost again 21-17. In 2014, Welker’s Broncos suffered a painful 43-8 Super Bowl defeat to the Seahawks.
Welker is not the only Cherokee in the NFL. Cherokee Nation citizen Sam Bradford is playing as quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, and prior to that was playing with the St. Louis Rams. Though his career has been plagued by injuries, Bradford has made a name for himself in the NFL, breaking several records, including Peyton Manning’s record for most completed passes by a rookie quarterback in the NFL. As a college player for the Oklahoma Sooners, Bradford won the Heisman Trophy in 2008. He was only the second sophomore ever to win the prestigious award, and the first Native American to win the trophy.
Additionally, Cherokee Nation citizen Derek Fine, was a fourth-round draft pick from the University of Kansas in 2008. The Sallisaw, Oklahoma native played tight end for the Buffalo Bills and made quite a stir when he ran his first catch in his first NFL game in for a touchdown.
Not all Cherokees in the NFL can be found on the field. Bud Adams was owner of the Houston Oilers, who later moved to Nashville and became the Tennessee Titans, and was also enrolled as a Cherokee Nation citizen. Adams was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and served in the US Navy during World War II before launching his career in the oil industry.
In 1959, Adams didn’t just start a new football team with the Houston Oilers, he helped create a new football league with the announcement of the creation of the American Football League. In 1966, the NFL and AFL merged, and the Oilers were officially an NFL team by the 1970 season. Adams and the city of Houston had a falling out over the issue of building a new stadium so in the 1990s the team moved to Tennessee and changed their name to the Titans. In October of 2013, Bud Adams died at his Houston home. At the time of his death, Bud Adams could claim 409 wins, the most of any NFL owner at that time.
Throughout his long and legendary career, Bud Adams maintained close ties to the Cherokee Nation. Adams’ uncle W.W. Keeler served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation for more than two decades, and Adams himself served on the executive board of the Cherokee Heritage Center to whom he made many generous contributions to help preserve Cherokee culture.
- Welker – @Jeffrey Beall – Creative Commons
- Bradford – @BlueberryFiles/Flickr – Creative Commons