Vanderbilt offensive tackle Thomas Welch was selected by the New England Patriots to begin the seventh round of the 2010 National Football League Draft on Saturday. The second Commodore taken in entry draft this year, Welch will begin his pro career with one of the league's most successful franchises.
A graduate of Brentwood High, the 6-foot-6, 310-pound senior becomes the first Commodore from the state of Tennessee to be selected in the NFL draft since Nashville native Hunter Hillenmeyer was taken in the fifth round of the 2003 draft by the Green Bay Packers. Hillenmeyer just completed his seventh season with the Chicago Bears in 2009.
Selected 208th overall, Welch finished his Vanderbilt career with 25 straight starts, starting ever game at right tackle for the Commodores during the Music City Bowl winning season in 2008. Welch made a successful switch to left tackle during the 2009 season, earning offensive player of the week honors on a couple of occasions. He was slowed by a ankle sprain later in the year but finished with the highest grade among Commodore linemen.
Athletic for his size, Welch played quarterback and tight end as a high school star and signed with the Commodores as a tight end/tackle prospect in February of 2005. After practicing at tight end during his redshirt season, Welch made the move to offensive tackle in the early stages of his freshman year in 2006. He played 43 games during his Vanderbilt career.
A participant in the Under Armour Senior Bowl in January, Welch's athletic feet, overall size and ability to play right or left side helped his stock rise going into the draft. He also performed well at the NFL combine in the February, finishing among the top linemen in bench reps (29), vertical jump (29 inches) and broad jump (8'9").
Welch is the second Commodore linemen in the past three years to be selected in the NFL Draft, joining Chris Williams, who was a first round pick by the Chicago Bears in 2008. Justin Geisinger was taken in the sixth round of the 2005 draft for the Buffalo Bills, making it three Vanderbilt linemen selected in the draft during head coach Bobby Johnson's tenure.
He joins cornerback Myron Lewis as Commodore draft picks. Lewis was taken 67th overall during the early stages of the third round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday.
Vanderbilt has now had 10 Commodores drafted under Johnson's watch, the most for any Vanderbilt coach since 13 were taken during George MacIntyre tenure.
Welch is the first Commodore selected by New England since wide receiver Preston Brown was picked in the sixth round in 1980.