SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

September 2, 2010

Living Legend

Welch became an Ipswich institution in his 37 years on sidelines

There are numbers that diehard Ipswich High football fans can recite by heart: the 224 career victories, accumulated over a 37-year span; the eight Cape Ann League titles; and of course, the five state championship crowns.

Those facts and figures tell a big part of the story that is the legendary Jack Welch, who patrolled the Ipswich sidelines over five decades beginning the year The Beatles landed on American soil for the first time and ending 362 games later.

But the numbers that mean the most to Welch? That's easy: 52, seven, 11 and three.

Those are, respectively, the number of years he's been married to his wife, Sandy; the number of children the Welches have, and the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren they now dote over.

"Nothing is more important than your family. I really enjoy watching my grandchildren and great-grandkids grow up and play sports and compete," said Welch. "For me, it's a little like coaching in that I want to make an impression on them and be an important part of their lives.

"I always equated a football team as being a family, too. You have the players for four years and they become very important to you — and they always are. And watching them grow up and go on to become successful adults — that was always so important to me."

Welch, who turns 78 years old a week from today, hasn't coached a high school football game in 10 years. But his passion, excitement and love of the game is as vibrant as ever.

He is the Jerry Rice of Cape Ann League football coaches — the greatest ever at what he did, without a doubt. He also holds the distinction of winning more games with one school than any other North Shore coach in more than 110 years of high school football history in the area.

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