Sebastian Vollmer: From Düsseldorf To A Second Super Bowl

Sebastian Vollmer stood out among the scrum of madness that is the annual Super Bowl media day.

Not only did the New England Patriots offensive lineman stand head and shoulders above most if not all in attendance, but the peppering of questions and subsequent answers all came in German rather than English. A healthy media presence of around 30 journalists is attending the NFL showpiece event from Germany and all flocked to the imposing Düsseldorf native when let loose on Tuesday morning.

These days the media focus on Vollmer’s football career is on his return to the Super Bowl and his established role protecting Tom Brady from quarterback-hungry defenses. Few asked Vollmer to explain his journey from obscurity to the sport’s grandest stage. For that tale, Sky Sports analyst Jeff Reinebold is best qualified to recall how Vollmer traded the jersey of the Düsseldorf Panther for those of the University of Houston and ultimately the AFC champions.

“Sebastian’s story is really close to my heart because I probably had more interaction with him than any of the other players we worked with,” explained Reinebold, who will be in the Sky Sports booth in Phoenix on Sunday night. The veteran coach of the CFL and college football played a key role in player development during the heyday of NFL Europe.

Vollmer at Wednesdays Super Bowl XLIX Media Day Photo: Mike Preston

“He was really just a kid when I went out to see him after his junior coach called me to say he had something special in Sebastian.

“He had what most big European and even American kids don’t have and that’s a nasty streak in him. He naturally finished blocks and plays and ran through people. He had the build you look for and matched with that mentality, it was clear he could make the grade, at least at the college level. He was serious about succeeding and wanted to be a player.”

Vollmer’s most serious sporting pursuit up to that time had been as a swimmer and he lacked the bulk and size associated with becoming potentially one of the game’s top right tackles.

Reinebold continues: “He was this gigantic skinny kid, didn’t know much about football, but he was different because he could bend and had toughness. He was probably six feet four tall, but only 215 pounds. I called him ‘big skinny’ because that’s exactly what he was.”

When the time came to discuss the potential for Vollmer to enroll at a university stateside to pursue his football career, his parents were far less excited than Americans who receive that coveted house call from a college recruiter.

“I asked Sebastian if I could speak to his parents, but he explained that they didn’t speak English, and neither did he at that point,” explained Reinebold. “Stephan Brauer, the coach at Düsseldorf who had played a great part in his development, sat in and translated.

“When I told them their son certainly had the opportunity to play college ball and maybe beyond that, Mrs. Vollmer looked at me like I was speaking Chinese. She had no conception that somebody was willing to send her son to school for free to play what she thought was just a recreational game.”

The Vollmers now convinced the opportunity was worth pursuing, persuading college coaches across the Atlantic to entertain spending one of their scholarships on an unknown raw German was another matter.

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Michael Preston
Michael Preston (@PRMikePreston) is working his 19th Super Bowl as a member of the NFL PR team and has held communications positions with NFL Europe, the North American Soccer League, IFAF and the United Football League. He handles media relations for Global Football and his debut novel, The Silver Skeleton, is available through Amazon.
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