by Travis Normand
I wrote this back in 2004 and I believe it was one of my first attempts at interviewing and writing about a historical college football figure. If I could do it all over again, I would strive to do a much better job and at least cut down on the grammatical errors.
The Versatile Mr. Welch, by Travis Normand, College Football Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. 19, No. 2 February 2006.
I really enjoyed putting this piece together and I am always looking for a chance to do something like this again. I met 1953 Heisman winner John Lattner from Notre Dame in the summer of 2007 at a Heisman reunion, and the following year I got a chance to meet 1958 winner Pete Dawkins of Army. While I really enjoyed meeting with both of these gentlemen, I would have loved to have covered them in the same way.
The text below is, more or less, how I originally wrote and published the piece on Mr. Welch (errors and all). I have considered going through and re-editing the piece but I don’t want to take away anything from its original form, regardless of how poorly written it may be. I don’t really remember where I first published it, but it may have been on my blog over at TexAgs.com (titled “Campusology”). However, I also sent a copy to the College Football Historical Society for publication in their newsletter. You can find a link to this piece published in that newsletter above. You will notice some changes and derivations in the newsletter version that don’t appear in my original piece. This is due to the editor of that newsletter making changes to the article and publishing it without showing it to me first. An example of one such change is that in the second paragraph of the newsletter version the editor included a parenthetical explaining that Texas AMC, at that point in time, was known as the ‘Agricultural and Mineral College.’ I point this out because I don’t want anyone who might be reading this to think that I would make such a mistake. The editor also gave the article its title of “The Versatile Mr. Welch.”
Barney Welch ’45
“Traveling to Austin for the traditional Turkey Day Classic with the Texas Longhorns, the Aggies were again kept from breaking the jinx which has held them off since 1924, but one tradition was broken as Sophomore Barney Welch crossed the Longhorn goal line on a 71-yard punt return to become the first Aggie to actually carry the ball across the pay-off stripe in Memorial Stadium.
Texas scored early in the second quarter and held all Aggie drives in check until Welch, behind good blocking from Simmons, Bucek, and Zapalac, gathered in a Texas boot in the first minutes of the final quarter and tied the score. A drive, featureing Jackie Field and Roy Dale McKay’s passing, brought the second Texas touchdown with only two minutes to go. After the kickoff the Aggies unleashed the vaunted aerial attack, and were threatening the Texas goal when the game ended. Two screen pass plays found the Aggies deep in Texas territory, but time wasn’t enough and the game ended with the Longhorns 12-6 victors.”
1943 Longhorn Yearbook (Page 364)
Barney Welch came to Texas A&M from Stephenville, TX in the fall of 1941 and began participating on the fish football team. Welch actually finished High School in the fall of 1940 and was headed to college for the Spring Semester of 1941; the only problem was that he was headed to Rice. After spending the spring in Houston working the night shift at the “Hughes Tool” parking lot, Welch decided that going to Rice might not have been the correct decision, so he called a friend of his who was working in the Oil Fields of East Texas to find out what he should do. This friend was Derace Moser (Texas A&M Class of 1942), also from Stephenville, TX.
Derace was a well respected senior at A&M and had been playing football for the Aggies for several seasons. Moser got Welch to come up to where he was in East Texas and got him a job working in the Oil Fields. At the same time Moser had a long discussion with Coach Homer Norton about a certain Barney Welch who was not only a good football player, but one that deserved a football scholarship at Texas AMC; as he was a fish-to-be come September. Because of the type of man that Derace Moser was, the coaching staff (along with most of the student body) had a lot of respect for him and Coach Norton decided to grant Barney Welch a scholarship and welcomed him to College Station in the fall of 1941.
Welch spent his fish year playing fish football (as during that time, freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity football team). Watching the Aggies from the sideline that season was not all bad as the 1941 Team went on to finish with a 9-2 overall record; winning the SWC Championship. But little did anyone know that season would have an ending that would change the face of Aggie Football for the next several years.
The Aggies beat Washington State 7-0 on December 6, 1941, and despite the growing threat of war in Europe, life in College Station was moving on as normal. The very next day (Dec. 7th) news rang out across the nation that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. The “threat” of war was not longer a threat; it had arrived on U.S. soil. From that moment on, life in College Station took a back seat to what was happening in the rest of the world. Most, if not all, of the senior class of ’42 joined the armed forces (and left, long before graduation). Meanwhile, the fish and sophomore classes knew that once they had completed two years of ROTC training, they could be called up, and could join the military as the rest of the school had done.
Life at A&M continued on for Barney Welch, but with every passing day, he and his class mates could only think of what was going on overseas. By the time he was a sophomore, and actually playing varsity football, the day-to-day focus was still on the war. “Every day we woke up and asked ourselves if today was the day.” Despite the excitement of getting to play college football, all thoughts were turned towards the war and what was going to happen in the near future.
It was during his 1942 football season, that Barney Welch left his mark on the game of college football as a player at Texas A&M. Prior to 1942, the last time the Aggies won a football game in Austin, the Head Coach of the Aggies was Dana Bible, and E. King Gill was lurking the sidelines. The Aggies traveled to Austin in 1922 and came away with a 14-7 victory. Two years later the Aggies went back to Austin only to get outscored 0-7. But getting outscored was not the only jinx that would be put on the Aggies that day, this was the same day that Memorial Stadium was dedicated, and it was the beginning of a long drought of touchdowns for the Aggies in Austin. After the shut-out in 1924, the Aggies made 7 more trips to Austin without scoring a touchdown, until finally in 1942, Barney Welch returned a punt, untouched, in the fourth quarter to become the first Aggie to ever score a touchdown in Memorial Stadium. Unfortunately, the Aggies were still outscored 6-12. The Aggies were playing with a very young team, as all the older teammates had enlisted and were gone. The Aggies finished with a record of 4-5-1.
That following summer Welch joined the Armed Forces and went to war in June of ’43. But before he left, Coach Homer Norton told Welch and his teammates that when they returned from the War, their scholarships would be there at A&M waiting for them. Welch was initially stationed in Paris, TX for a short stay before being shipped off to war. It was at this station that he received a telegram on Nov. 17, 1943 telling him that his friend Derace Moser, who had been in Waco training to be a pilot, was killed in a plane crash while flying to Florida. Welch said, “Moser was 22 years old when he died. He was like a big Brother to me.”
The next season’s team was without many upperclassmen, and most people had written the 1943 Aggies off as a team too young to compete. To much surprise and delight, that Aggie football team went on to a 7-2-1 record and earned A&M’s only appearance in the Orange Bowl.
Finally, in 1946, Barney Welch returned to Aggieland. Coach Norton was still the coach and he remembered his promise. Instead of recruiting as many new football players as he normally would have, he gave many Aggies (now WWII Veterans) their scholarships back in order for them to finish their educations and receive their degrees. But, Welch didn’t come back to A&M alone. This time he had a wife and his 3 year old son with him. Getting to play football while going to school was a nice change of pace for these veterans who had just given the last several years of their lives to the defense of their country, but many of them were ready to be through with school and were ready to start working.
Welch started working for Mr. Penberthy in the intramural department as a student and was getting paid for officiating different games during the year. When he graduated in 1948, he became head of the Intramural Department at A&M and worked in that position for many years. 1948 was the same year that Welch started officiating football games on the high school level, and later on the college level. In 1961 he started working in the Insurance Industry, but kept officiating football games on the side. In 1969 he was one of five officials to work the “Big Shoot-Out” between Texas and Arkansas. Years later, Welch was speaking with Darrell Royal, and he told him that out of the five officials working that game, four of them were Aggies. The following year 1970, Barney Welch was officiating scrimmages for Coach Stallings. After realizing how well they worked together, Coach Stallings asked Welch to come and join his coaching staff and handle the duties of recruiting coordinator and coaching the scout team.
While reflecting on his career as an official, Welch said, “I don’t know of anyone else who has played, coached, and worked as an official in the SWC. There may be someone else who has done that, but as far as I know, I am the only one.”
After Coach Stallings was no longer the coach at A&M, Barney Welch went back to the Insurance Business.
Now in 2004 you can still find Barney Welch ’45 at Kyle Field on Game Day. He is the one running the 25-Second/Play clock. I don’t know about anyone else, but the play clock is just something I never gave much thought, even though I probably look at it one hundred times each game. But from now on, I know that every time I check to see how long we have to snap the ball, I will be reminded of a man who has left his mark on A&M in many different ways.
“I love A&M, it has been my life. Living and working here in College Station, with A&M right down the street, has been like watching my children grow up.” – Barney Welch ’45
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