INDIANAPOLIS – High school students around the United States can relate to
Flash back eight years ago, and there was Werner in his native Germany trying to apply to high schools in the United States.
Communication was one of Werner’s largest hurdles in trying to gain admission to high school as he had to fight the language barrier of only knowing German at the age of 15.
Last Friday Werner, who now speaks very good English with a bit of a German accent, told a story about the difficulty he had when conversing with admissions offices.
“When I came over I couldn’t speak any English,” Werner said. “I had to use hand signals and the whole process getting in contact with those high schools just using the translator on the internet.
“Emailing them back and forth just copying and pasting the text into the translator and it messes up the whole grammar. I’m trying to figure out what he’s saying. Then I put my German thing into the translator and it translates to total different English because the translators are different.”
In 2007, Werner found himself in the International Student Program, which in connection with USA Football, sent selected foreign high school students to the United States to further pursue their dreams athletically and academically.
“USA Football was a big, big part of my life. Without that program and the International Student Program, I wouldn’t be here,” Werner said. “I had potential in Germany but on my way to this part right here, I got opportunities and I just took them. Without those opportunities I would never make it.
“I’m so grateful that the people believe in me and they gave me the chance to do that.”
The Salisbury School in Connecticut was Werner’s next destination, but that move came with leaving behind family and friends.
Werner said he was used to having his family in a 20-minute radius back in Germany, and that was the biggest adjustment to life in the states.
“The cultures you think would be so different but it’s not,” Werner said. “It’s just amazing to see that I can come from a different country and I’m welcome. I have a lot of American friends now.
“The first time I came over, people I don’t know are like, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ just hugging me. I wasn’t used to that. I was like, ‘Americans are so nice.’ ”
Making a new home in Connecticut, Werner credits his host family for helping ease the transition and taking care of him when homesickness kicked in.
That eventually was the case for Werner as after his first year at Salisbury School, he returned to Germany.
He needed a year at home to earn tuition money, but there was never a doubt in his mind he would come back to the U.S. and carry out a dream that so many back home were watching intently.
Now when Werner heads back to his native land, there will be a few more Germans clad in Colts blue.
“There’s so many football players in Germany right now that are so excited that I’m a Colt. You don’t understand how many Colts fans are over there now,” Werner said. “I just want to go back right now and just meet the whole football Germany and show them pictures and just spread this experience right here.”
From Berlin to Connecticut to Florida, the homes have changed, but the infectious smile of Werner still remains.
It did not go away at all on Friday afternoon as Werner walked around the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, his newest home, gleaming at the pictures of past Colts greats that he remembers from his days of playing the Madden video game back in Berlin.
Now it is Werner that will be in Madden and Germans across the Atlantic have a role model to look up to on the Indianapolis Colts.
“I’m just trying to move here as soon as possible just to settle in so I can focus on football,” Werner said. “Just trying to get settled in as fast as possible so I have a home, so my wife (Denise) has a home, too. Then I can play football and just focus on that.”