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Page last updated at 18:24 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 19:24 UK

Giant German makes draft history

By Haydn Parry

Sebastian Vollmer
Vollmer became a star at the University of Houston

German giant Sebastian Vollmer has expressed surprise and delight at being the first ever European-trained player to be selected in the NFL draft.

Vollmer, 6ft 7in tall and more than 22 stone, was picked in the second round by the New England Patriots.

"I didn't even watch the draft itself, so the actual phone call did surprise me," he told BBC Sport.

"I was just hoping and praying I'd end up in New England. So right now I'm really excited and extremely happy."

The draft always throws up its fair share of surprises but the selection of Vollmer, who plays offensive tackle, was the biggest this year.

Born in Dusseldorf, he had not even played the game until he was 14, and arrived in the States five years ago, aged 20.

Yet college coaches were soon queuing to sign him after he appeared in the 2004 Global Junior Championships in San Diego.

He spoke almost no English when he agreed to attend the University of Houston but soon established himself as one of the top offensive linemen in Conference USA.

Is he as polished as some players at that position? Probably not, but he has a lot of good tools to work with

Patriots coach Bill Belichick

Ahead of the draft, the abilities and limitations of every eligible player are scrutinised in microscopic detail by team scouts, the media and fans.

Vollmer had attracted interest due to his useful combination of sheer size and an athleticism which owes something to the fact he started his playing days at tight end.

It also helped that, in his senior year at Houston, Vollmer shone in a Cougars offensive line that swept all opponents aside, with a running game that averaged over five yards per carry and was ranked number one with 575.1 yards per game.

Pre-draft, the feeling was that Vollmer might not be quite dynamic enough to be left tackle material (a key position, protecting a right-handed quarterback's blindside), but that he could well develop into a starting right tackle.

The Patriots obviously liked what they saw, selecting him 58th overall.


Vollmer will have to fight for his place during training camp if he is to make the final roster at the beginning of September.

He must prove he has the ability to play at the highest level in an offensive line that protects the franchise's most valuable asset, quarterback Tom Brady, the two-time Super Bowl most valuable player.

If he can make the Pats roster for week one, an appearance at Wembley might be on the cards, with New England due to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London in October.

And Patriots coach Bill Belichick believes he has a chance of making the grade.

"I think he's certainly a developing player. I don't think he's had quite the football experience that the other football players have had, but he's playing," said Belichick.

"Is he as polished as some players at that position? Probably not, but he has a lot of good tools to work with. He's a tough kid, very smart, well-conditioned athlete. He's a big man.

"Like everybody, he has a lot of work to do but I think he'll work hard and try to do what we ask him to do."

I really want to get all the coaching I can get right now in my career and then take it from there

Sebastian Vollmer

For all the statistical analysis, sometimes a high selection in the draft can come down to a hunch.

Vollmer preferred not to dwell on his physical attributes when I asked him what he thought the Pats had seen in him

"Actually, I think it might be more for my overall attitude and effort - you know?" he said (in an understandably Texan-tinged accent).

"I'm willing to work very, very hard and do exactly what I need to do.

"And there's also the fact that I just want to get better. I really want to get all the coaching I can get right now in my career and then take it from there."

As the NFL explores the potential of its European fan base, would it be too fanciful to imagine Vollmer one day playing in a German stadium in front of his compatriots?

"Yes, of course, that would just be fantastic," he said.

"And for me personally it would mean a great, great deal."

see also
Detroit make Stafford top draft
25 Apr 09 |  American Football
Stars of the NFL Draft
26 Apr 09 |  American Football
What's the NFL draft all about?
23 Apr 09 |  American Football
NFL ponders second UK game option
13 May 09 |  American Football
NFL fixtures
05 Jan 08 |  American Football
NFL results
26 Oct 07 |  American Football
NFL standings
26 Oct 07 |  American Football
NFL in a nutshell
19 Oct 05 |  American Football
American Football on the BBC
05 Feb 08 |  American Football

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