Bjoern Werner was a late comer to football. But after being selected in the first round of the 2013 National Football League draft by the Indianapolis Colts, Werner realizes that he has reached the pinnacle of the sport in a relatively short amount of time.
Werner, a defensive end/outside linebacker from Florida State, is expected to make a strong push as a rookie this fall to become a starter in the Colts’ retooled 3-4 hybrid defensive package.
“I woke up [Friday] morning and it was still so unbelievable just that I can say that I’m a Colt. It’s just such a great organization. I watched last season, every Sunday. What they’ve been through and going to the playoffs was just so inspiring and I can say that I’m going to be a part of this,” the 6-foot-3, 266-pound defensive lineman said during his introductory press conference Friday.
“I’m so excited. I think it’ll take a while for it to sink in but hopefully I’ll get over it because I have to get ready and try to prove that I’m worth that pick.”
The Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year last season for the Seminoles, Werner wasn’t introduced to football until he was 12 years old in his native Germany. It’s been an express ride and a love affair ever since.
“When I was 12 years old, in sixth grade, a classmate brought a flag football, like this tiny ball to school and we just tossed it around during a break.
I was just loving it. I was always into sports and he just said, ‘Why don’t you come one afternoon and try to practice with the club team in Berlin?’ I said, ‘Why not?’,” he recalled.
“I just went there and fell in love with flag football at the time. In Germany, everything until 15 is flag football and 15-19, like high school age, is youth football, tackle football. So I played flag football and I was loving it. But then I see the older guys playing tackle football and it was just like, ‘Man, I want to do this but I can’t. I’m too young.’ I just saw the physicality of the sport and it was just so amazing to see how grown men can tackle each other and it’s legal because in soccer it’s not. I was just so into football and just starting to play Madden on the Playstation. Just picking up that game and knowing every NFL team, every player on the roster. It was a lot of fun.”
Growing up in Germany, where soccer is king, Werner just never got the urge to play the sport. A fan, yes. But playing? No.
“Honestly, I was never that kid. I never had posters of somebody on my wall,” he admitted. “I’m a soccer fan where I cheer for my country, for Team Germany, when it’s the World Cup. But I don’t have a favorite player. That’s just how I am.”
After playing football, however, he was hooked.
“Back in Germany, when I was like 15, my head coach, Coach Joe Hoffman, said, ‘You have potential. You should go over there and just try to go to America, high school, college, college to NFL.’ Since then, I knew I could do it,” Werner said.
“If I wasn’t believing it 100 percent, then I wouldn’t have made it that far. The last six years I was believing that I could make it. But, of course, I just say it like that. Two years ago, before my sophomore year [of college] when I was named a starter for Florida State, I knew ‘Wow you could not only like make it, you can get drafted pretty high.’ It’s just really, really amazing to see my biography just for myself, what I’ve accomplished so far.”
Now, if all goes well, Werner will become an important piece of a rebuilding Indianapolis defensive unit. With the decision not to re-sign former Pro Bowl defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney after the 2012 season, the ex-Seminole will be given every opportunity to earn a starting job.
“[I am a] hard worker, willing to learn everything new. If I think I can do something or my coach criticized what I think I’m doing good, I’m going to adjust it because my coach knows what’s best for me,” he stressed.
“Every time I mess something up or I don’t do the right thing, I’m just thinking about the sacrifice I did. Why would you mess it up? It’s just that internal motivation. I have a lot of people behind me. I was thinking about there’s so many people that want to be in my spot and this just keeps me motivated.”
Werner and his wife Denise will return to Indianapolis in two weeks for the start of rookie mini-camp.
“I’m just trying to move here as soon as possible just to settle in so I can focus on football. Honestly I don’t even know the schedule. I just know in two weeks I have rookie minicamp and I’m going to be here for a month-and-a-half. And then I have some off time and then camp starts,” he said.
“That’s all I know so far. Just trying to get settled in as fast as possible so I have a home, so my wife has a home too. Then I can play football and just focus about that.”
I I I
n Colts third-round pick — Indianapolis did not have a selection in the second round after trading with Miami for cornerback Vontae Davis last season.
The Colts, however, did add former Illinois offensive guard Hugh Thornton (6-3, 330) in the third round. Thornton can also play offensive tackle. He started 11 games at left offensive tackle for the Illini last season.
n Short to Carolina — Former Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short was selected by the Carolina Panthers with the 44th overall pick, the 12th pick in the second round.
Short started 13 games in 2012 and registered 58 tackles with seven sacks, four pass breakups, a forced fumble and four blocked kicks.
n Draft wraps up today — The Colts will have picks today in the fourth (121), sixth (192) and two (230/254) in the seventh rounds.
Indianapolis’ final selection in the seventh round will be for Mr. Irrevelant as the last pick in the draft.