Bjoern Werner didn’t always have his current command of English but his football fluency was evident from the first snap. He has always “played up.” In the German system of American football youth ages 12-14 play flag football. Not Werner; he jumped to the tackle version as a contact-craving 14-year-old. He swapped hits with kids 15-19, and it didn’t matter that for an entire season he was banned from games and confined to the daily drudgery of practice. “I wanted to get better. I wanted to be ready when the time came,” said Werner, the defensive end/outside linebacker the Indianapolis Colts grabbed with the 24th selection in the first round of the April draft. Werner made an even bigger move as a 16-year-old: 4,000 miles. He came to America. He played his sophomore season at Salisbury School, a Connecticut boarding school. He not only participated in games, he dominated them. In the season opener, against Hotchkiss School of Lakeview, Conn., he chased down the quarterback from the backside on a speed option away and tackled him for the late fourth quarter safety that clinched Salisbury’s 9-6 victory. Werner learned later that the kid was the New England prep 100- and 200-meter champion. “Bjoern was a force of nature,” said Chris Adamson, then Salisbury’s coach. “He was playing against 18- and 19-year-olds and he was the best player in New England. I heard that from multiple college coaches. “On the first day colleges could make offers, my fax machine went bananas. We got like 10 that morning, all the schools in the Northeast: Boston College, Rutgers, UConn, Temple, Syracuse.” Werner (pronounced bee-YORN VER-ner) wasn’t even in the country. He had gone home to play his junior year for his club team, Berlin Adler. He would return to Salisbury as a senior, when everyone from UConn to Cal sought his services. Florida State was his pick. “He had great size, great speed, change of direction, physical player,” said D.J. Eliot, Werner’s defensive ends coach in Tallahassee. “But he didn’t really know how to play. He was raw.” Werner had the look of a classic redshirt candidate. It didn’t happen. He was too good to wait. He played up again. He appeared in all of Florida State’s 14 games as a freshman. Werner’s NFL introduction looks to be more of the same. He was positioned in different spots and played in a range of combinations with veteran outside linebackers Robert Mathis and Erik Walden during the Colts’ mini-camp this past week. “He’s a natural,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said of Werner’s move from college defensive end to professional outside linebacker. “He’s a great athlete. We know his measurables, all those things we know. But the one thing we didn’t know was, we had a good idea, but the F.B.I., what we are putting on his plate, his football intelligence, is off the charts. “He doesn’t make many mental (mistakes), so we’re going to keep throwing stuff at him and use him in a bunch of different roles. He can be effective not only in the run game, but when we get to third down, he’s going to be a hard guy to block.”
Colts 1st round pick Bjoern Werner continues to 'play up'
Indianapolis Star | Jun 15