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Versatile Welsh anchors St. Anthony's defense

Rob Welsh is "a grinder," says Friars coach

Rob Welsh is "a grinder," says Friars coach Rich Reichert. "Nobody works harder and he?s tenacious." Credit: Pablo Corradi

The things they're saying about St. Anthony's Rob Welsh would make you think he is some kind of overachiever short on athletic ability.

That would be the wrong assumption.

Welsh, a defensive lineman, is the kind of player who makes coaches churn out the superlatives. College recruiters, too.

"He's a grinder," Friars coach Rich Reichert said of his Syracuse-bound senior. "Nobody works harder and he's tenacious . . . He just has a motor that doesn't stop."

This season also will test Welsh's versatility. The graduation of Ricky McClain created a void at defensive tackle and Welsh, who flourished as a defensive end, will shift inside to anchor the line. But at 6-3 and a solid 265 pounds, he is quite ready.

"It doesn't matter to me," said the soft-spoken Welsh, who adds "sir" to the end of his responses. "I just want to do whatever I can to contribute . . . It's still football, just hit somebody."

The coach believes his defensive captain has the athleticism to do it all. Reichert said the Orange coaches envision him as a future interior offensive lineman and this season he'll get some snaps at tight end for the Friars.

"He can move for a big man; he was a pretty good basketball player," the coach said of Welsh, who averaged 10 points and seven rebounds as a sophomore. "He'll be a three-year starter for us. We don't bring a lot of sophomores up to varsity, but we had a feeling he was a special kid."

Turns out it was more than a feeling. Welsh will follow in the fresh footsteps of Scott Vallone and John-Kevin Dolce, St. Anthony's linemen who went on to play for Rutgers and Virginia, respectively.

Welsh has taken on the job of improving the defense, which allowed the third most touchdowns in the Catholic league last year.

As a self-described "leader by example," he spent the offseason working out and added 15 pounds of muscle in anticipation of his added responsibilities. The extra bulk, he thinks, will help him better combat the double-teams he'll face.

He's also focused on ridding himself of the bad taste left from last season's 48-35 loss to Iona Prep in the CHSAA finals.

"I felt the defense was a little shaky and I take responsibility for that," said Welsh, his tone more somber. "We're going to come back stronger and more motivated to win a championship. I'll raise my game and hopefully when I do that, everybody will as well."

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