by Julie Greco

To understand what motivates senior linebacker Brian Welch, you first have to understand his family and the life he has led.

Welch was born in Iran as the Shah was trying to overthrow the government. "The house we lived in actually had bullet holes in the walls," says Welch, who spent his first 13 years living in Lebanon, China, Western Africa, South Africa, and the Philippines. Welch has ridden a camel across the desert, seen the Pyramids, and visited the Great Wall of China. He also remembers having a bodyguard and hiding under his bed as a child while Filipino rebels shot guns in the streets. "I just remember being miserable and I couldn't wait to leave," says Welch. "I knew that I was an American but I'd hardly ever been to America. I couldn't wait to get here."

Living abroad taught Welch to appreciate the freedoms many Americans take for granted. He saw firsthand what it is like to live in countries with dictatorships, military coups, and terrorist attacks. He also learned the hard way how much some groups hate America.

Brian Welch with flag

His father, Kenneth Welch, a member of the U.S. Army, was killed almost 17 years ago to the day of the Sept. 11 tragedies in a terrorist attack in Beirut, Lebanon. Welch was six years old when a man drove a van filled with explosives into the elevator shaft of the building where Kenneth worked. It blew up the building, killing him and one other soldier.

"It's tough, but I try to draw positives out of every situation," says Welch. "It was lunch time and everyone was gone. The fact that it happened because he was staying after and doing a little more work when he could have been at lunch is what motivates me. I know what kind of man my father was and what he stood for and why he didn't leave that day. He worked hard and that was his downfall, but that's who I want to be and that's why I work as hard as I do."

It's also the reason for his patriotism.

Prior to the Rutgers game, Welch noticed that John Ballein, Tech's assistant athletic director for football operations, had a wooden staff with an American flag tied to it. "Being patriotic like I am, I told him that it was pretty cool," says Welch. "He told me they needed someone to carry it on the field."

So on a beautiful, clear day in Piscataway, N.J., a new Tech football tradition began: Welch ran onto the football field carrying the American flag.

But to him, and to so many others, it was much more than a flag. Welch was carrying a symbol of America, a symbol of hope, a symbol of something that his father died for--freedom.