Bjoern Werner bid farewell to Florida State this afternoon. The über-talented German-born defensive end announced he would enter the NFL draft yesterday and forgo his senior season at FSU.
"I’m really excited," Werner told reporters via conference call. "I took a few days to talk to coaches, Coach Fisher, [former FSU DE] coach Eliot, and just based on the performance of the last couple years, I felt pretty good for this year’s draft, hopefully."
Werner is being modest, he's considered a top-five prospect for April's draft and the top player at his position. Some draft projections have him going as high as second overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Projections are projections," cautioned Werner. "It’s still an honor just to have people think that highly of me. But there’s a long process until the draft and I’m trying to do everything to be one of the top players taken."
Fortunately for Werner, he has a good head start. At Florida State the 6-4 255-pound DE was dominant over the course of the last two seasons, racking up 20 sacks including an ACC-leading 13 in the 2012 season. Werner is stout against the run, dynamic as a pass-rusher and is also quite talented at getting his hands up into the passing lanes and batting down balls.
He admits he knew he would not be back to Florida State immediately following his 3.5 sacks performance in Florida State's regular season finale against Florida. He waited to make the announcement until after the bowl game though.
"Before the ACC Championship game I started looking into it a lot," said Werner. "I started talking to coach Fisher during that [dead period] before the bowl game, then I went back to Germany before the bowl game and talked to my parents. Basically I made my decision before the [Orange Bowl] but I didn’t want to say anything because stuff can happen during the bowl game too.”
Like for instance, getting injured.
Werner's close relationship with Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine, both of whom suffered major setbacks to their NFL ambitions this year, had an impact on his decision to make the jump too.
"Me and Brandon are really close, we talked a lot during the season about it," Werner admitted. "From his standpoint he advised me to leave... Him being the example of what can happen when you come back."
Jenkins wasn't the only one, Jimbo Fisher also told Werner that he would not gain much by coming back for his senior season, that he couldn't possibly improve his draft stock more and that it was in his best interest to turn pro.
So credit Fisher for having the integrity to put the best interest of his players over the best interests of his program.
"There’s not much left in college for me," added Werner. "I won the ACC, I won the Orange Bowl, it’s just a nice way to go out."
Now Bjoern will head down to Bradenton, Florida and train for the draft at IMG Football Academy (which is directed by former FSU Heisman winner Chris Weinke). Werner has signed with CAA and agent Jimmy Sexton (who also represents Fisher and former FSU-DC Mark Stoops).
"This was my ultimate dream when I came from Germany, to play in the NFL," said Werner. "I worked hard for it and I never imagined I could leave a year early, but I set up myself through my Florida State career pretty [well]."
The hardest thing Werner may have to do between now and April might not even be on a football field, it's likely going to be explaining to his family exactly what it is he's doing now in the months leading up to the draft.
It's all foreign to them.
"[My parents thought] I was in the NFL already," joked Werner. "I had to explain there’s a whole five-month process you have to go through before you get drafted.
"It’s so hard to explain the whole process, they’re used to soccer and soccer players just pick their team by whoever gives them more money. It’s just hard to explain the whole stuff with rounds and how they already have the money set, you already know what you’re making by what pick you are in the draft. You finish up, you can’t pick your team. Everything is just the opposite of soccer. It’s hard to explain."
That may be the case, but come April when Werner marches across the stage at Radio City Music Hall and poses for a picture with Roger Goodell, NFL jersey in hand, it will make a lot more sense.
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