, Salem, MA


September 2, 2010

Living Legend

Welch became an Ipswich institution in his 37 years on sidelines


But don't underestimate the toughness factor. Schools as small as Ipswich don't win almost 63 percent of their games under any coach's watch without a healthy dose of swagger, bravado and a we're-tougher-than-you-let's-see-you-do-something-about-it attitude.

"We won games because of toughness," Welch said bluntly. "A lot of people might not like to hear it, but we were tougher than kids from other towns; that's why we won a lot of games."

Bit by the coaching bug

Jack Welch was born in 1932 in Newburyport; his family was by no means wealthy. But with a strong Irish Catholic upbringing and a family-comes-first ethos, they were taught to look at life's glass as always being half-full.

One of the great influences of Welch's young life was Rev. James J. Mooney, who taught and coached football at Immaculate Conception High School, from which Welch graduated in 1950. "He took me under his wing," said the former single wing quarterback, "and I don't know where I'd be now if not for him."

Welch had a tryout after high school with the Boston Braves and was eventually sent to their minor league team in South Carolina, his first time away from home. But when the Korean War rolled around and Uncle Sam came calling, he came home and, at his mother's insistence, went into the Navy.

Although he never went to Korea, Welch spent five years in the Naval Academy and was on the UD4 underwater demolition team — which became the Navy Seals. He also played football for the base team, the Gators, which won the Navy championship and went on to face Fort Hood, Texas, for the service championship.

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