Wes Welker hands deceived him at the worst possible moment on Sunday night that make him regret for the miss as he know what impact he will have on the Super Bowl. But to realize what impact the New England wide receiver is already having here in his hometown, you only need to meet Jas'Sen Stoner.
He is a Douglass High School senior who is a multisport standout and a classroom leader. He is a kid with a difficult past but a promising future. He is a living, breathing example of the change that the Wes Welker Foundation has affected in Oklahoma City. The foundation helped change the fortunes of Douglass football, then Douglass football did the same for Stoner. Without that? “I don't know where I'd be right now, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I look back on it and the direction I was headed — I have no idea where I'd be standing right now.”
During the same week Welker and the Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl, Stoner signed a letter of intent to play football at Central Oklahoma. There's a scholarship with his name on it. There's education and opportunity waiting for him. All of that seemed out of reach four years ago. Entering his freshman year at Douglass, Stoner was a D student. He blew off tests. He skipped class. All signs pointed to academic disaster. Then, Douglass coach Willis Alexander approached him about playing football.
Even though the kid weighed only 135 pounds, the coach thought he could play. It would take time. It would take effort. Alexander told Stoner, whose first name is pronounced “Jason,” that he'd have to get in the weight room. Just so happened that the school had received a grant from the Wes Welker Foundation to improve the weight room earlier that year. Before that grant, the weight room was a hodgepodge of equipment. MAPS for Kids had provided tax dollars to address the need for new facilities in Oklahoma City schools — Douglass was among the schools that built a brand-new building — but the initiative didn't provide for new athletic equipment.
“It was pretty antique,” Alexander said of what was in Douglass' weight room. “Let's say it was aged.” Alexander remembers some of the machines being there when he was in school. He graduated Douglass in 1989. “We had kids lifting on benches where things would fall off,” he said. “We'd have to drill holes in it, put bolts in it just to hold it. “The kids never complained. They just came in and did their work.”