Bjoern Werner picked up football – well, to the Germans, American football – as a kid growing up in Berlin. When he would take the subway to practice, he'd carry his shoulder pads and helmet with him, and locals figured he was going to play ice hockey.
Now, about a decade and a half later, Werner is amazed at how much interest there is in the NFL in Germany.
Werner witnessed the rapid rise of the NFL in Germany over the last decade, and this week joined Matt Taylor on the Official Colts Podcast to explain what the Colts can expect when they take on the New England Patriots in Frankfurt on Nov. 12, 2023. Interest in the NFL took off, Werner said, when he became first-round draft pick of the Colts in 2013 and Düsseldorf native Sebastian Vollmer won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2015.
Along with Mannheim's Markus Kuhl and Hamburg's Kasim Edebali, Werner and Vollmer's presence led to expanded media coverage of the NFL in Germany. From there, a German broadcast network began carrying two NFL regular season games per week. And the fanbase took off, to the point that Werner said last year's Seattle Seahawks-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game at Allianz Arena in Munich had over 700,000 ticket requests.
That game – the NFL's first on German soil – was "like a golden ticket," Werner said.
"It's becoming mainstream," Werner said. "It's not like this small sport on the side. It's really becoming a mainstream sport here in Germany. And at the same time, more kids are starting to play the game because they're getting inspired, they're getting motivated, they fall in love in the game and that's the big goal, right? It's to inspire the next generation to play football."