With only three days until the 2016 Michigan football season, we look back at All-American safety and punt returner Sulkivan “Tripp” Melborne. The North Carolina native got the nickname “Tripp” because he was the third generation in his family to be named Sullivan Welborne. Below are his highlights and achievements:
College – Sophomore
- In 1988, the Wolverines had the a great group of talented receivers including Chris Calloway, Greg McMurtry, Derrick Walker and John Kolesar.
- Head Coach Bo Schembechler began to use Welborne as a defensive back during spring practice in April 1988.
- Welborne transitioned to the position well and won the 1988 John Maulbetsch Award as the freshman player that best demonstrates desire, character, and capacity for leadership during spring practice.
- He started all 12 games at strong safety in 1988 compiling 72 tackles, five interceptions, three pass breakups, and two fumble recoveries.
- He started all 12 games at strong safety for the 1989 team that compiled a 10-2 record, lost to USC in the 1990 Rose Bowl, and finished the season ranked #7 in the final AP Poll.
- Welborne totaled 80 tackles, four pass breakups and two interceptions in 1989.
- He also became Michigan’s punt returner in 1989, returning 32 punts for 297 yards, an average of 9.3 yards per return.
- At the end of the season, he was honored as a consensus first-team defensive back on the 1989 All-America Team.
- He started the first 10 games of the 1990 season at strong safety.
- In just 10 games, Welborne had 74 tackles, seven pass breakups, a fumble and an interception.
- He returned 31 punts for 455 yards (an average of 14.7 yards per return), including returns of 60 yards against Indiana, 53 yards against Illinois, and 38 yards against Notre Dame.
- Welborne broke Michigan’s single-season record with his total of 455 punt return yards, a record that stood until 2003 when it was broken by Steve Breaston.
- In the 10th game of the 1990 season, on November 17, 1990, Welborne sustained a serious injury to his right knee while returning a punt 31 yards to Minnesota’s 20-yard line to set up the go-ahead touchdown for Michigan.
- At the end of the 1990 season, Welborne was honored as the Most Valuable Player on the 1990 Michigan team.
- He was also selected for the second consecutive year as a consensus All-American.
- In three years at strong safety, 227 tackles, eight interceptions, eight pass breakups, and two fumble recoveries. He also returned 67 punts for 773 yards, an average of 11.5 yards per return.
- During Welborne’s three years as a starter from 1988 to 1990, Michigan won three Big Ten Conference championships, compiled a 36-11-1 record, and finished ranked in the top ten each year (#4 in 1988, #7 in 1989, and #7 in 1990).
- In 1990, Lloyd Carr, then Michigan’s defensive coordinator, said of Welborne: “Tripp does more than any player we’ve ever had. He is an outstanding blitzer and ball-reactor, very intelligent.”
- Welborne was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round (180th pick) of the 1991 NFL Draft.
- He had been expected to be drafted in the second or third round, but fell in the draft after injuring his knee and undergoing reconstructive surgery.
- He missed the 1991 NFL season while rehabilitating his knee, but signed a contract with the Vikings in April 1992 that was contingent on Welborne passing a physical examination on his knee.
- He appeared in two games for the Vikings during the 1992 season.
- He tore the ACL in his left knee during a game against the Detroit Lions, ending his 1991 season.
- He attempted a comeback in 1992, but injured his knee again, and his playing career was over.
Life After Football
- After his football career, Welborne formed a company to provide scholarships and seminars to young people.
- He moved into the financial services field, working for Wachovia Securities, as a risk manager at Bank of America, and then with Target Financial Services.
- Welborne was employed as the athletic director at Shorecrest Preparatory School, a private school in St. Petersburg, Florida. In January 2012, he oversaw the opening of the school’s new $7 million, 34,000 square foot athletic facility.
- In March 2015, he was hired to serve as the athletic director at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, starting in July 2015.