By Kayla Curry
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
In just three years, Kole Weldon has left behind his ambitions to be a professional football player and worked to take his skills as a thrower for the Texas Tech track and field program from an average high school athlete to being one of the best in the nation.
Kole Weldon, a junior at Tech, understands the story of the underdog because he was one himself. Weldon turned a walk-on position with a $100 scholarship to 38 mentions in the school record book in just two years as a Red Raider.
To most, this would seem nothing short of a Hollywood written story line, but to Weldon it was no surprise because he always knew he would be successful.
Many athletes know the phrase – hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. But has anyone ever asked what happens when talent works hard?
Weldon did, and his answer was success that most would have never predicted.
Weldon’s story began in Jacksboro, Texas, where he grew up surrounded by some healthy family rivalry.
Weldon said this home atmosphere is where his drive and determination was instilled.
“Even at a young age, I was very competitive,” Weldon explained. “I didn’t even want to lose at checkers. I grew up with four boys, so you know there was always some type of contest going on.”
Once he got to high school, 16-year-old Weldon had his sights set on playing college football, but with only 70 other students in his graduating class, Weldon played any and every sport he could.
Weldon knew he was talented in a wide array of sports and his dad reinforced this thought by encouraging him to grow his natural talent.
“The first time I had ever picked up a shot put,” Weldon reminisced, “my dad told me if I stick with it, I’ll win state my senior year. “
Eugene Weldon, Kole’s dad, remembers telling him this because he thought winning state in shot put would one day be a good trivia fact when his son was playing professional football.
Little did they know Weldon’s athletic career was about to make a sharp turn they never saw coming.
After graduating high school, Weldon was recruited to play football at Midwestern State University, and it didn’t go as planned.
“I ended up just feeling like that wasn’t for me after a semester there,” Weldon said honestly, “so I decided to come to Tech.”
Even though he had always planned to have a son that was an NFL quarterback, Eugene said he was not surprised by his son’s decision to make the move to Lubbock. It was influenced by something much bigger than the both of them.
“It was totally faith based,” Eugene, a minister at Christian Missions in Jacksboro, said. “He said ‘Dad I just keep hearing Texas Tech, and I think that’s where I need to go.’”
Weldon had his high school coach make a call to Tech’s head track and field coach, Wes Kittley.
Weldon became a Red Raider overnight.
Although it is unusual for an athlete to contact Kittley, instead of the other way around, he saw potential in Weldon.
“He was from small school, kind of overlooked I think,” Kittley explained. “We just saw some talent, and we thought if this kid will work hard, we have the chance to develop him and go from there.”
Knowing he was more inexperienced than most, Weldon made a promise to Kittley his first day on the team.
“I made a promise to my coach as soon as I walked through the door,” Weldon said. “No one would out work me. There would be no one that worked as hard as I did.”
Kittley quickly paired Weldon with assistant coach, Cliff Felkins. As the saying goes, steel sharpens steel, Felkins’ work ethic only made Weldon’s drive and determination stronger.
Taking every possible second to prepare, even if it is in an airport terminal during a flight delay, Felkins and Weldon had their sights set on a win at nationals.
“We don’t waste any time,” Weldon said with the tone of a serious athlete. “If we see an opportunity, we’re going to work trying to get better.”
Weldon would soon be competing against highly recruited and more experienced throwers than him that would have out thrown him in high school.
“Going in to last year, it was deceptive because no one knew how far I could throw,” Weldon said. “because I was a nobody going in to the nationals meet.”
Walking out of the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championship as the national runner-up, Weldon had made a name for himself. That name was in the record books with a second place finish in shot put, surprising many in the process.
He went on to finish third at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championship last June, after finishing runner-up at the Big 12 Championships in Waco.
Weldon was fully aware that he was considered an underdog by others but never considered himself one. He still wanted to show everyone what he was capable of and was very thankful for the opportunity.
“I want to be known as that guy that rose from nothing to being very successful,” Weldon said. “I’m also very humbled by my experience. I’m very grateful.”
Even though Weldon left his underdog label behind, the story does not end here.
Kittley said the sky is the limit for Weldon’s future success.
Eugene said his son would be successful at anything he puts his mind to.
As for Weldon, he has his sights on quite a to-do list.
“My future goals,” Weldon said with a slight laugh thinking of all of the possibilities, “I want to keep being successful. I want to make it to nationals again. I’d like to be All American. I’d like to have every school record. I also want to make it to the Olympics and represent the US.”
Weldon hopes his story and his sheer determination to succeed will inspire the next generation to work until all their dreams come true.“I want to be an inspiration to young athletes,” Weldon said. “Show them that they can do something if they have dreams – you just have to put in the work.”