Super Bowl XLIX A big German in the big game

This weekend's Super Bowl, the American football extravaganza, could see the first German to play on a winning NFL team. Sebastian Vollmer, a tackle for New England, hopes to make history.
Sebastian Vollmer has come along way since his days with the Düsseldorf Panthers.

When the National Football League’s championship game between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots kicks off on Sunday in sunny Glendale, Arizona, Sebastian Vollmer will be on the field. It is the second time the 30-year-old German will be competing to win American football’s most coveted prize. His team, the Patriots, lost in 2012.

Now the Patriots are back. And this time, Mr. Vollmer, the six-foot-eight, 320-pound right tackle from Düsseldorf, wants to win. If he does, he’ll be the first German football player to get his hands on the Vince Lombardi trophy awarded to the NFL champions.

“As an athlete, I want to win,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where I come from.”

To make it this far, Mr. Vollmer had to vanquish another German, Bjoern Werner, a pass rusher with the Indianapolis Colts, in the semi-final American Football Conference championship game. The Patriots bulldozed the Colts 45 to 7.

Video: Sebastian Vollmer for the New England Patriots.

Werner first played football with his hometown club, the Berlin Adler, or Berlin Eagles. He later played college football at Florida State before being drafted by the Colts. His dream, like Mr. Vollmer’s, is to win the Super Bowl.


As an athlete, I want to win - it doesn’t matter where I come from. Sebastian Vollmer, Offensive Tackle, New England Patriots

It’s the fourth time that a German has made it to the championship. Counting Mr. Vollmer’s two bowl games, Uwe von Schamann twice lost the championship with the Miami Dolphins in 1983 and 1985.

Born in Düsseldorf, Mr. Vollmer grew up swimming and playing basketball and didn’t start playing football until he was 14. He joined the youth program of the local football club, the Düsseldorf Panthers. He played college football for the University of Houston before being drafted by the Patriots in 2009. He was the first German to be selected in a NFL draft.

Mr. Vollmer and Mr. Werner were among the many Germans able to see professional football in their own country via NFL Europe, a professional league where U.S. and European players once honed their talent. The league established teams in several European cities, including Düsseldorf, and played from 1991 to 2007 when, for cost reasons, the NFL pulled the plug.

Video: The New England Patriots in final home practice before Super Bowl.

Yet, interest in American football remains strong, especially in Germany, where NFL Europe had its greatest fan base. And when Mr. Vollmer runs out on to the field, thousands of Germans will be watching him on television or on their computers.

Viewers will need to bring plenty of time; the event can run well over three hours.

German TV station Sat. 1 will broadcast the event, beginning with a pregame show at 11.15 p.m. on February 1 and the game at 12.30 a.m.

Viewers will need to bring plenty of time. The event can run well over three hours, because of commercial breaks. An average professional football game lasts three hours and 15 minutes. Unlike hockey or basketball, the 60-minute game clock in football can run even when the ball is not in play. When the ball is actually in play, the action can amount to as little as 11 minutes.

The residents of the German capital have a variety of places to see the Super Bowl this weekend. For those who want to experience a stadium-like atmosphere, the O2 sports arena -- a huge, modern sportsplex built by U.S. investor Philip Anschuetz, will offer public viewing. Belushi’s, Magnet Bar and White Trash are among the bars offering big screens and big drinks to make it through to breakfast.


John Blau is a senior editor at Handelsblatt Global Edition from Minnesota, home of the Minnesota Vikings. He would watch the game if he didn't have an early morning deadline. To contact the author: [email protected]