Welch lives out childhood dream

Iola-Scandinavia alumnus seizes his opportunity to play for the Packers

By Greg Bates

Special to the Community Spirit

Kristian Welch won’t soon forget September 28, 2023.

He was able to fulfill a childhood dream.

Welch put on his jersey, laced up his cleats, and strapped on his helmet with the prominent “G” on the sides. As he approached the tunnel to enter the field, the Iola native could hear excitement building from the Lambeau Field crowd ready for a big Thursday night showdown with division rival, the Detroit Lions.

As Welch walked through the same historic tunnel as Green Bay Packers legends have done for more than 60 years, the moment sank in. Welch was getting an opportunity to play for the team he rooted for while growing up just over an hour west of the Packers’ stadium.

“It’s a super surreal feeling,” said Welch, who graduated from Iola-Scandinavia in 2016. “Just having known the history, having been a fan, knowing all the great players that have been there before you. It means a lot. Not everybody gets to put that jersey on, so just being able to get that opportunity and to just be there in that moment is really, really cool.”

Welch was signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft. A special teams guru and backup inside linebacker, Welch played in 43 games and amassed 21 tackles. The Ravens cut Welch on August 29, 2023, after three seasons with the organization.

It didn’t take long for interested teams to get Welch’s agent on the phone. By the next evening, Welch was on a flight to Green Bay; he signed a one-year contract the following day.

“That’s still hard to really put words to,” said Welch about getting to play with the Packers. “It’s certainly one of my wildest dreams.”

Being an integral part of the Ravens’ successful special teams units for three years propelled Welch into the spotlight as a grinder who will do anything to get on the field. Packers Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia knew the magnitude of signing Welch.


Earning his shot to play

Getting acclimated to the Packers’ system, Welch spent the first three weeks of the regular season on the practice squad. When left tackle David Bakhtiari was placed on injured reserve ahead of Green Bay’s Week 4 game, Welch was promoted to the active roster September 28.

He showed the Packers’ coaching staff he was ready to go. Welch stayed on the active roster the entire season, playing in 14 regular-season games and the team’s two playoff games. He finished third on the team with six coverage tackles and was fourth with 210 special-teams snaps during the regular season.

The 25-year-old really seized his opportunity when it was presented.

“First of all, getting the opportunity that early in the year doesn’t happen very often,” Welch said, “I think if you look across the league for guys to get to a new team and establish themselves that quickly and start playing, I think it is not easy. That was certainly a challenge. I was very fortunate to have Rich Bisaccia as special teams coordinator and with all the experience that he’s had in the league and the experience that I had already in the NFL and kind of just learning his system and getting to know him and how he wants his players to play. Then just getting my hands dirty in practice and just showing that I’m out here competing. I’m not here just to practice; I’m here to play. I think they realized that early on.

“Whether it was defense or special teams, going out and making plays, flashing on tape, always doing the right things. Then just doing the small things, too; running to the ball, taking good angles, keeping your feet apart, just good body position. I think they kind of realized I was the player that I am early on and I kind of gained their trust — they being the coaches and the front office, everybody involved. I earned the trust of my teammates and some great people in that building for sure. I have the utmost respect for the organization, top to bottom. It was an awesome experience.”

A special teams aficionado, Bisaccia signed with Green Bay in February 2022 to turn the units around. The Packers had been struggling in that phase of the game for a number of years prior to his arrival.

When Welch signed his contract with the Packers, he knew a big reason was because he can play all four phases of special teams.

“I’m very versatile. You can move me around, even within a phase,” Welch said. “Like on kick return, for example, I can play any of those front positions; on punt, I can play any of the guard, tackle, wing positions. I think just being a guy you can move around, and plug and play. He can trust me; I’m smart. I’m going to be able to learn the system.”

Being a special teams player isn’t for everyone. It’s a dirty role, and one Welch embraced early on in his college career at the University of Iowa. Welch knew if he worked hard on special teams units, it would be a way for him to see the field early and often at the college level. His special teams skills translated to the pro game.

At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, Welch’s body type is ideal for a special teams player. He can run, change direction, execute a solid block — there’s not a lot Welch can’t do well in the niche position.

“I truly enjoy playing all phases, like a ‘core teamers’ guy,” Welch said. “If you don’t enjoy playing special teams, you will get exposed in the NFL. Like any other position, right. But there’s certainly its own nuances, there’s certain technique stuff that comes to each phase, and I really embraced that.

“If it was a way for me to make a roster to play special teams, then I’ll be right in line to give everything I’ve got.”


Next season and beyond

It’s been a fun NFL journey so far for Welch. He’s put the time and effort in for so many years, and it’s certainly paying off.

Welch is quick to thank everyone who has supported him.

“There’s a lot of people that have gotten me to where I’m at — first of all, God,” Welch said. “And just having a great family, my wife, my parents, my sister, having great coaches, all the way from high school on through college and in the pros, too. I certainly didn’t do it by myself, but don’t let anybody ever say you can’t do something. I always thought it would be really cool to play for the Packers. This was in high school, in college, obviously taking football super seriously. There was never a moment where I didn’t think I couldn’t do it. So, to have that come to fruition and then get the opportunity and then take advantage of that opportunity and then go and play however many games it was this year, I think that’s just a testament of taking advantage of the opportunities you get.”

Welch is working hard this offseason, training at the University of Iowa with some fellow NFL players.

Welch lives in eastern Iowa where his wife, Maddie, grew up. The couple welcomed their first child, Jace, to the world last May.

When Welch signed with the Packers, it was a one-year contract, which was renewed when the Packers re-signed Welch March 14.

Welch is positive he will continue to make an impact with the team. “I’ll keep playing for plenty more years,” he said. “I don’t think I’m done any time soon.”

Kristian Welch will continue to play with the Packers after re-signing his contract March 14.


Photo by Evan Siegle, Green Bay Packers

Welch in the Packers’ defensive line.


Related Posts

To Subscribe

The Jensen Community Spirit is mailed at no charge to property owners and residents within the Tomorrow River (TR) School District. Residents outside of the school district that have students attending the TR Schools will also receive issues at no charge. Gift and other subscriptions to the Jensen Community Spirit are welcome and can be mailed to addresses in the continental United States for $30 for a one-year subscription. Subscriptions are not refundable but may be transferred.

Subscriptions delivered outside of the continental USA will need to be quoted for additional shipping costs.


Recent Articles

Buy Local: Generation Native Plant Nursery
April 3, 2024
Alchemy Concrete wins two design awards
April 3, 2024
Iola Winter Sports Club triumphs at State cross-country ski meet
April 3, 2024

Post Category