The countdown to the start of the 2013 season is under way, as Pitt is 27 days away from its Labor Day opener against Florida State at Heinz Field. Panther-Lair.com is counting down the days until the biggest season opener in recent memory.
Today's number is 27, so we're looking at one of Pitt's greatest players from the early days.
The name Gibby Welch probably doesn't resonate with Pitt fans, but students of the program's history should familiarize themselves with Gilbert Laverne Welch, since he was arguably the greatest Panther until Marshall Goldberg arrived on campus a few years later.
During his three active seasons at Pitt from 1925-27, Welch was a dynamic force. He led the Panthers in rushing in 1925 and 1926, led the team in passing all three years and was the leading receiver in 1926 as well.
Welch holds several Pitt records from his career. His 105-yard kickoff return against West Virginia in 1927 is tied with two other players - both played before Welch - for the longest kick returns in Pitt history. And his 80-yard runs against Penn State in 1925 and Westminster in 1926 rank among the 12 longest rushes in school history. He also caught a 76-yard pass from James Hagan against Nebraska in 1927 that ranks among the 20 longest passing plays at Pitt.
At the end of his career, Welch had 4,108 all-purpose yards, a Pitt record that stood until Tony Dorsett passed him in the 1970's, and Ray Graham moved into second last season, bumping Welch to third on the all-purpose list.
A native of Parkersburg, WV, who made his name as a prep quarterback, Welch became the key cog in Jock Sutherland's single-wing offense. He played in the first game at Pitt Stadium in 1925 and as a senior in 1927 he led Pitt to its first bowl game, a 7-6 loss to Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Welch was a unanimous All-America selection in 1927.
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