Sebastian Vollmer is seeking his first Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots in Arizona tomorrow, 13 years after his NFL dream began by watching the same team from his native Germany.
Vollmer will be flying the flag for Europe in Glendale as the starting right tackle for the Patriots’ offensive line against defending champions, Seattle Seahawks.
The 30-year-old began his unlikely path to New England when he took up the game as a teenager in Dusseldorf, Germany. And it was watching quarterback Tom Brady, the man who he is now charged with protecting, lead the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title which helped fuel the fire of a journey which first took him to Houston and then to the professional ranks.
Asked if he had advice for any aspiring American football players in Germany, he said: “I did that 13 years ago. I watched the 2002 Super Bowl with the Patriots and I’m here now. If that’s your goal, keep at it, it might work.”
Vollmer attracted plenty of attention on media day on Tuesday compared with many of his team-mates as he fielded questions from the German journalist contingent. Despite that, the 6ft 8ins, 320lb offensive lineman does not feel like an ambassador for the country or continent of his birth.
“I don’t see myself any differently to any other player,” he added. “Just knowing what a great experience it has been for me, I would like some other German kid to go through that just because it’s been amazing. Whatever I can do, I will do, but, other than that, I just see myself like any other offensive lineman.”
American football has a large following in Germany and it would seemingly be at the front of the queue if the NFL’s International Series expanded further into European territory after the success of the Wembley games.
Several German teams competed in NFL Europe during that experiment of the 1990s and, after watching some of those games on home soil, Vollmer would welcome the possibility of his sport returning to the country in the future.
“I would like to see that,” he said. “But that’s more of a business question, I would say. Growing up, I watched NFL Europe and those games had a great turnout. The games in London – I played two of them there – that was a great experience.
“As a player, I think it would be great [to have games in Germany]. How the owners and the NFL see that, I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, Seattle coach Pete Carroll insists it will be star cornerback Richard Sherman’s decision whether to play if his pregnant girlfriend goes into labour with the couple’s first child sooner than expected.
Carroll said during a joint news conference with New England coach Bill Belichick that family comes first. “He has an opportunity to face a big decision and whenever our players have a personal, family issue that comes up, it’s always about family first and they can decide what is best for them and I support that,” Carroll said. “However he goes with that, if he’s faced with that decision, we’ll support him and we’ll see how that goes.”
Sherman said on Thursday that the baby – a boy – isn’t due for a couple of weeks and “he was going to do his father a favour”, and wait to be born until after the game. In an interview with KING-TV in Seattle, Sherman’s girlfriend, Ashley Moss, said: “I told him to play the game.”
New England coach Belichick is not underestimating the challenge that awaits his team. “I think everyone knows how much respect I have for Seattle and Pete and the job that they do,” Belichick said. “I don’t think fun is the word that I’d use. It’s been a huge challenge. It’s a tough team to prepare for. I could see why they were champions last year and why they are here again this year.”
Carroll said the preparations for the week had a very similar feel to last year in New York prior to the Seahawks’ victory over Denver.
“The process that we go through is very much the same. What changes is the team that you’re playing and the challenges they present, which are extraordinary,” Carroll said. “We really do have a process and a way we go through it and a mentality and feel like we’ve come through it now and we’re wrapping it up and it’s gone the way we like it to.”