For 21 seasons Tampa Bay fans have come to know Cliff Welch's work through his excellent photography first in Buccaneer Magazine and now PewterReport.com. Learn about Welch and his passion for his craft in this feature as PewterReport.com prepares to enter our 25th year of covering Tampa Bay Buccaneers football.
The photographs you see on PewterReport.com – and those from yesteryear in Buccaneer Magazine – are the result of the same kind of diligent work that Scott Reynolds has been performing for so many years. But Welch’s tenure with PewterReport.com trumps even that of Reynolds.
Since 1991 when owner Jeff Fox hired him as Director of Photography, Cliff Welch has been covering the Buccaneers.
Welch, a graduate of Robinson High School, attended the University of South Florida for two years before realizing that his passion for photography could provide him with income. Since 1986, Welch has operated Cliff Welch Photography, specializing in family events and youth sports photography. His website includes 92 stunning photographs of Buccaneers past and present, and he has worked for some of the most renowned athletes and organizations of all time, including the New York Yankees, Mickey Mantle, and Muhammad Ali.
Welch is so good, rival media outlets have been known to “borrow” his Pewter Report pictures, despite copyright laws.
Game day for Welch begins over two hours before kickoff. He starts by reviewing a flip card with both teams’ rosters, making sure that he is well versed on the opposition’s high profile players and rookies. Welch’s job begins with photos during warm-ups, and then continues with player introductions, until the game itself.
On the day of the game, Welch has his preferred spots. Welch makes sure that he stakes out a place in the end zone looking headfirst into the Buccaneers’ offense and defense. Using a long lens, Welch shoots into the players’ faces and squares up on their bodies. He has developed a deep knowledge of football strategy, a requirement for his job.
“A good photographer has to think like a defensive coordinator. If you want to get the shot, you have to have an idea of the direction that the play is going,” Welch told Pewter Report. “Back in the days of Mike Alstott, when the Bucs were inside the 20-yard line, I would set up and shoot between the tackles. This was also true when Errict Rhett was in the backfield, who was even more of a sure thing to run inside the tackles.”
During the old days, Welch would even lend a hand collecting post-game locker room quotes. Before the onset of digital photography, to get his road game pictures developed on time, Welch had arrangements with several local photo labs. He’d call the lab from the road, let them know what time he’d be arriving in Tampa, and the lab would open its doors in the middle of the night, just for Welch and Pewter Report.
PewterReport.com editor-in-chief Mark Cook, who worked with Welch and Reynolds back in the old Buccaneer Magazine Days, says Welch was –and still is – respected by the players.
“I remember at the old stadium several times players seeking Cliff out after a game to have him take photographs for them, especially if they had a old friend or college teammate on the opposing team,” Cook said.
“Today, some 20 years later, his work has only gotten better. I love opening up the new folders Cliff sends after practices and games. You come to expect excellent quality, and Cliff never fails to deliver. It’s funny I can actually pick out Cliff’s photos in many cases when his stuff gets picked up nationally. It’s that unique and good.”
Welch got to know many of the Bucs players closely, especially during the 13 years in which he traveled on the team’s charter airplane. During Mike Alstott’s first two seasons in the NFL, Welch joined Alstott’s mother and his father for game-day breakfasts on the road. Alstott was always a great guy towards Welch.
Eating with the players wasn’t necessarily limited to pre-game meals. During one game in Detroit, Eric Curry let Welch know that he was craving a hot dog. Welch went and grabbed one for him from the media room. Trent Dilfer was another Buc who benefited from a Cliff Welch in-game hotdog run.
Which Buccaneers were the funniest? According to Welch, the two funniest Bucs were Warren Sapp and Rhett. Who was the nicest? Probably Brad Johnson.
Welch was also struck by the interaction he saw between Buc greats Lee Roy Selmon and Derrick Brooks. During a 1990’s Buccaneer Magazine event to select the greatest Buccaneer of all time, Selmon wore the Bucs’ old orange uniform, and Brooks wore the new Pewter. Selmon was a few inches taller than Brooks, and a few years older, and to Welch they looked like father and son, even in the way that Brooks treated his predecessor with obvious respect.
Cliff has many stories to tell, and in future articles, Pewter Report will let you know some of the things seen and heard by its own “fly on the wall,” including the outrageous treatment of Joe Jurevicius by Philadelphia Eagles fans. There was nothing better, Welch says, “than watching Tampa Bay close down Veterans Stadium and open up Lincoln Financial Field with Buccaneer victories.”
For now, suffice to say that Welch loves photography and is proud to have photographed every NFL touchdown scored by Alstott, Rhett, and even Sapp. Every time you visit PewterReport.com, you have the privilege to see unique Buccaneer photographs that you can’t get elsewhere.
Cliff and his wife, Charlene, are the proud parents of two beagles, Bailey and Bella. Cliff is an active volunteer with the Tampa Bay Beagle Rescue and with SouthEast Beagle Rescue. To learn more visit www.sebr.org
and you can also follow Welch on Facebook at Cliff Welch Photography
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