Likas on preps: Welter's humility stands above peers

Likas on preps: Welter's humility stands above peers

MONTICELLO — There's no way Cully Welter would miss the ceremony for his induction into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, right?

Two of Welter's former Mahomet-Seymour football coaches, Frank Dutton and Tom Shallenberger, are in the distinguished group already. So are the likes of former St. Joseph-Ogden leader Dick Duval and current Unity coach Scott Hamilton.

So it's safe to say Welter, Monticello's football coach for the last nine seasons, will be in attendance April 7 at Champaign's Hilton Inn Garden Hotel when his name is announced among the 17-person class.

Well ... as long as he can receive some time away from another of his duties with the Sages.

"I know I have a track meet that day," Welter said with a laugh. "So I'll have to get something figured out as far as that's concerned. But I'll definitely look forward to it."

Two days before Christmas, Welter was selected as one of three active coaches within the IHSFCA's 2018 Hall class. He recently met the requirements to be chosen in that field — 25 years in the profession within Illinois, 20 years as a head coach and at least 100 victories — when he completed his 24th year helming a program.

"I just think about how blessed I've been to be able to coach all the wonderful student-athletes over the years," Welter said. "(I think of) the assistant coaches I've formed a lot of good relationships with, the communities who have supported our program and my family for basically 25 years."

The numbers certainly justify Welter's inclusion in the Hall. He's collected a 75-26 mark with the Sages, including nine consecutive postseason appearances. Before that, Welter led Aledo to three state titles in 11 years following four seasons at Ridgeview, bringing his total head coaching ledger to 211-66.

But it's not just statistics that make Welter a leading candidate for this honor, according to those closest to the former Illinois track star.

Not one to brag

Dan Sheehan is in his first year as Monticello's athletic director. Though he doesn't have as many interactions with Welter as others, Sheehan had the chance to work alongside Welter as the Sages compiled a 9-2 record this season.

Sheehan said he quickly realized Welter isn't one to make accomplishments about himself, even when it comes to being immortalized among the best in Illinois prep history.

"I know how humble he is. The first thing is he'll turn it over to his assistant coaches and his ballplayers," Sheehan said. "It's an outstanding opportunity to recognize him. But he'll deflect it. And that's just who he is, and that's what I respect most about him."

Turns out Sheehan has a good bead on the man running his football program.

"I deflect everything," Welter said. "I know there's a lot of coaches out there that are probably better than me that haven't had the opportunity to be at some wonderful places. I'm just thankful to even be considered for the honor."

Sheehan said Welter consistently delivers him a scouting report before games. And while that might just apply to varsity affairs, it's not as though Welter is only concerned about vying for IHSA championships.

"Whether it's a freshman game, a JV game, a varsity game, winning by 40, he's constantly coaching the players," Sheehan said. "He relates well with them, and he reacts well with them."

Striking a balance

Matt Leng served as an assistant under Welter toward the end of Welter's time at Ridgeview, which started in 1994. The two formed a close bond not only on the field, but also away from it — with Welter even serving as a groomsman in Leng's wedding.

"One of my first impressions I had of him was his calmness and his approach," Leng said. "There wasn't a lot of fire and brimstone, but he was very much in control."

Leng, who went on to head Fisher's football team for 14 seasons before taking his current spot as a Rantoul assistant, said Welter's ability and desire to teach separates him from many other coaches.

As Leng describes it, Welter has a penchant for both teaching what he coaches and coaching what he teaches. And he does so while staying both competitive and relaxed on the sidelines.

"I think when he's out on the football field, it's an extension of the classroom, just laid back and relaxed, and he can talk to anybody," Leng said. "If you have that laid-back, easy-breezy approach, I can only imagine what that's like when you go out on the football field."

Welter said mentoring student-athletes is something he's always cared about, but he added that it took time for him to understand just how important his role is in that process.

"I think that everyone ... goes in with the idea that they would like to be influential, but I don't think I understood what that meant (when I started)," Welter said. "As I've gotten older, I've realized ... your perspective or your focus is more on the Xs and Os and less on that aspect. You realize as you get older there's more important things, certainly."

From Leng's perspective, he's had no experience that leaves him surprised with Welter's Hall selection . Whether it was facing (and frequently losing to) Welter in 2-on-2 football or lending an ear when Welter started coaching at Aledo, Leng has come away feeling Welter is "the man."

But it was a time when the duo wasn't together that had the biggest impact on Leng, and exemplified why Welter's Hall spot is more than just a numbers game.

"After (the 2002 state title win over Carthage), he runs to the middle of field and his wife, Angie, brings out his kids, Tyus and Aliyah," Leng said. "He gave them a big hug and a big kiss right there on the turf, at the 50-yard line. ... That always had an effect on me because I always try to keep balance between football and my family."

 

Preps coordinator Colin Likas can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at@clikasNG.