TROISDORF, Germany -- American football is growing in Germany and surrounding countries in Europe. That was never more evident than Nov. 26-27 with more than 240 players from ages 14-18 from Germany, Austria and Poland coming together for the first ever Elite 200 Camp.
The growth began with NFL Europe making inroads with five teams playing in Germany, but it seemingly always comes back to players from the country making it to the NFL that has ultimately made the biggest impact. That list begins with Bjoern Werner, the former star defensive end at Florida State, who was the first and only first round selection in the NFL draft to be born and grow up in Germany.
“The camp and growth of the sport in Germany shows that we can be a little football nation,” said Werner. “… We had guys creating a lot of buzz, Sebastian Vollmer, Kasim Edebali and myself. Sebastian Vollmer is the first player that grew up in Germany to win a Super Bowl, and that created a buzz. A lot of people began following the NFL because we have had a few guys make it to the NFL. People are realizing it’s possible, and it’s creating a buzz. Every little city has a team now and those teams have grown from 30 players to 50 players in some cases.”
Accompanying the success of German, and other European players in the NFL was televising NFL games on two free TV channels.
“Since then it’s been exploding, and I think the timing for the camp is perfect because of that,” said Patrick Esume, a former German Football League standout. “There are countries like Poland and Austria, because they hosted the world cup and European Championship also seeing growth, but Germany more so because there used to be five NFL Europe teams in Germany. Germany is the main spot.”
While the game in Germany continues to ascend, there are still a number of areas in which the young players are playing catchup when comparing where football is at in the United States.
“What the kids don’t get in Europe, and Germany in general, is the competitive nature of the game and the preparation towards it,” Esume said. “So now since they are here, they get the American coaching, the German national team coaching and they see some kids that are huge and run great times. They see that they have to get in the gym, work out, lift and run. It will eventually change the weight room culture here.”
Along with building a weight room culture in Germany, the top prospects have to make tough decisions about when to look at coming to the states. Some kids come for a year of prep school to get exposure and tackle the NCAA academic requirements, but Werner, who owns and operates Gridironimports.com, offers advice for future prospects from experience having come to the states as a 16-year old and playing two years at a prep school before signing with Florida State in 2010.
“Because it happened for me and some others, the kids need to realize that coming over here early is important,” Werner said. “The kids and the colleges have to work through the academics. Getting the kids over to have two years of school in the states is key for development on the field and off it. The more people we can have make it to college and the NFL over here, the more kids will realize that they have to start early and work at it.”
Scouting the talent
The camp featured a number of players young, and some approaching 19 years of age that are candidates to come to the state for prep school, or go straight to college football with offensive lineman Yannick Rohrschneider, wide receiver Zavier Scott and defensive end John Schmid taking home MVP honors.
Offensive guard Yannick Rohrschneider: Amongst the prospects at the Elite 200, Rohrschneider most quickly created some buzz, and by the end of the two-day camp, he had established himself as the player most ready and equipped to come over to the states and have a chance to play at the FBS/upper-tier FCS level. While he will need and could greatly benefit from a year in a college weight program, he does have good size, with excellent height for an interior prospect and a frame that can support more needed mass. The 18-year-old was also the furthest along in technique among the offensive linemen, demonstrating an understanding for the need and ability to play with leverage. He did a good job of fighting for and getting hand placement. He displayed good hip and knee bend and also demonstrated some edge in his play, most consistently working to stay with and try and finish blocks. Projected as a guard, Rohrschneider also displayed valuable versatility lining up at tackle and center as well during the scrimmage and being effective at each position. This is far from a finished prospect and with a move to the states he would at least a year to further develop, but the camps offensive MVP, proved to be a strong and capable candidate to be able to come to America and develop into a good player in the trenches.
Defensive end Leon Schmid: A player who spent a year in the states during high school, Schmid ultimately stood out among the defensive prospects. He possesses a nice blend of height and bulk with still plenty of room to still add good mass and improve strength. He was a competitive player who took as many reps as he could and also showed a willingness to line up where needed working at end and defensive tackle. He had the best and most consistent get-off of the group and was the most well rounded. He’s still raw and inconsistent in areas, but was active with hands, displayed good body control as well as range. Schmid also displayed a physical nature and some fight in his play and demonstrated with an opportunity to come back to the states that he could be a player that can develop into a strong contributor to a college D-Line unit.
Wide receiver Zavier Scott: Speed put Scott on the radar at this event, posting a pair of sub-4.5 40’s and at this stage that is his greatest asset. As a receiver he’s not a natural plucker with his hands and it wasn’t always pretty, but he did find a way to get it done and caught a lot of balls thrown his way. He is not a small prospect either, as he has good height and arm length, with a thick sturdy build through his lower body. The speedy Scott also displayed some toughness and worked as a blocker when he didn’t get the ball and that was good to see, because as a potential college player in the States his best fit may be at safety and as a contributor on special teams. A player with some experience playing high school ball in America, Scott showed some promise and his speed gives him a nice foundation to build off of.
Quarterback Luke Wentz: Wentz was not the best pure passer at the camp nor did he possess the strongest arm, but as a total package he did demonstrate the most upside. As a QB, with a move to the states he would need some time to work on and further develop his mechanics. He displayed though he could make most throws, but most importantly he also demonstrated good athleticism and with work could grow into an effective zone-read QB. A player who showed some promise he would need a bit of developmental time, but he also brings a somewhat limited “bust factor” from an ability standpoint, because if QB proves not to be a good fit, he is a good enough athlete to move to another position, likely WR, and still be able to contribute. Wentz was a player, with some time and development, that showed a high ceiling.