Sean P. Means: To play a QB, Tom Welling had to be at top of his game

By Sean P. Means

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: April 10, 2014 11:01AM
Updated: April 11, 2014 09:38AM
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This image released by Summit Entertainment shows Tom Welling in a scene from "Draft Day." (AP Photo/Summit Entertainment, Dale Robinette)

Tom Welling found out that, in some ways, the job of pro quarterback isn’t too different than being an actor.

“These guys show up every day with a younger, faster version trying to take their head off,” said Welling in a recent phone interview.

Welling is one of the supporting players in “Draft Day,” a comedy-drama about the NFL that opens in theaters nationwide Friday. The movie follows Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner), the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, who must make a series of momentous decisions on the day of the NFL Draft.

Welling’s character is a factor in those decisions. Welling plays Brian Drew, the Browns’ veteran quarterback, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury and has spent the off-season getting back in shape. So he’s concerned when Weaver is considering drafting a hotshot rookie QB to replace him.

“He’s coming back in the best shape of his life, and he might be replaced by a rookie draft pick who looks good on paper,” Welling said of his character.

Welling said he talked to some NFL quarterbacks about the lifestyle of a pro football player.

“Often, you’re working job to job,” he said — and that, again, is similar to acting.

Welling — who’s best known to audiences for playing Clark Kent, the kid who would become Superman, for 10 seasons on the TV series “Smallville” — turns 37 later this month. That’s an age still considered young, or youngish, for an actor. For a football player, it’s an age when retirement isn’t too far away.

“That is a reality that everybody’s aware of,” Welling said. “[Drew’s] mentality is that he doesn’t believe that. He thinks he still has time left. He thinks he’s in better shape than he’s ever been.”

Welling played soccer in high school — and said that in Delaware, where he grew up, “soccer was a bigger sport than football.”

He looks quite fit in “Draft Day,” and it may infuriate the less athletic among us when he says, “What you see is where I was 10 days before we started shooting.”

“I’m pretty active,” he said. “I eat pretty good. I move around a lot.”

“Draft Day” fits into his post-“Smallville” career plan to find good projects, even if he’s not the star.

Before “Draft Day,” Welling played a Secret Service agent in the JFK assassination drama “Parkland” — a movie he is proud to have been associated with. “I would have done the catering,” he said.

He also has done work behind the camera. He directed seven episodes of “Smallville,” and he was an executive producer on the short-lived CW cheerleading drama “Hellcats.”

Being on the set of “Draft Day” gave him a chance to watch two Hollywood veterans at work: Costner, the film’s star, and director Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters,” “Dave”).

“I want to learn from Ivan, see how he directs,” Welling said. “I also thought, I’m going to watch and learn from Kevin. He has had a success I can only dream of achieving.”

Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/seanpmeans. Email him at spmeans@sltrib.com.