INDIANAPOLIS – For Chris Adamson the process of evaluating international high school football prospects can be a bit taxing.
It begins with film of the player.
Then, if that passes the test, the admissions records are scoured over next.
Contact between high school and international students is normally the third step and a relationship, filled with trust, must be forged in order for a teenager to leave everything behind in search for an athletic career in the United States.
Adamson recalls these exchanges from six years ago when a then 16-year old German prospect named
From a football standpoint, Adamson did not see any cause for concern with Werner.
Yes, Werner had only been playing tackle football for less than two years but the raw talent was clearly evident.
What really sold the deal were his conversations with Werner and the genuine interest Adamson saw in a teenager that understood what it was going to take to play college football in a country he and his parents had never been to.
“We exchanged emails at first because of the language barrier and (Werner) seemed really excited to come over,” Adamson said.
“We thought he could be admitted to the school and he conveyed to me that we were the school that he wanted to come to. Those two points were pretty clear in our conversation and we just moved on from there.”
The Salisbury School in Connecticut was a boarding school that was used to having international students.
Coming from Berlin, Werner had learned English as a second language growing up but never had to speak it for any sustained period of time.
That would soon change when he arrived to Salisbury, where the largest hurdle did not come on the gridiron.
“We were a pretty rigorous school academically that didn’t actually offer an ESL (English as a Second Language) program,” Adamson said.
“(Werner) had to take all of his classes in English. He got some tutoring and some help initially but that was his biggest challenge, helping him get through schoolwork.”
On the field, it didn’t matter what language people were speaking to take notice of Werner’s abundant talent.
Adamson said that Werner’s frame had filled out considerably since the coach last saw him on film.
While there were some minor fundamental adjustments to make, Adamson saw the immense potential with two key components.
“(Werner) bent really well, in everything he did---ankles, knees, hips, his pad level. He had been well-coached in that regard but he also naturally had that flexibility and understanding of how to play with leverage,” Adamson said.
“Number two, he has really strong hands. Once he got his hands on you, it was over.”
During Werner’s first season (eight games) in the states, he racked up 54 tackles (24 for loss) and 12 sacks.
Colleges began inquiring about Werner but not everything was as smooth as it seemed for the exchange student.
Back home in Germany his family was within a 20-minute radius at all times.
Now more than 4,000 miles away, Werner’s homesickness was growing and he eventually informed Adamson that he would not be returning for his junior season.
While Adamson was disappointed, he understood the difficulty Werner was dealing with and realized that although his star defender would be heading east across the Atlantic, he promised his coach that he would return.
“I never really lost hope that he would come back. I knew why he left and I could tell that he was very sincere on why he left,” Adamson said.
“I just made it a habit that when I got another offer for him, starting on September 1 that year, I just faxed it out to him saying, ‘Here’s Boston College. Here’s Rutgers. Here’s UConn.’ If you come back you’re going to go play Division I football and that was always your goal.”
CHECK BACK WITH COLTS.COM ON THURSDAY FOR PART TWO WHERE WE LOOK AT WERNER'S RETURN TO SALISBURY AND THE COLLEGE PROCESS