Björn Werner, DE, 2010-2012
On the list of the 25 greatest Seminoles of all-time, there are two selections that I already envision fans having a problem with. We'll get to the second one in about a week and a half, but today we get the first of our two most contentious choices kicked off with Björn Werner.
Werner's football story is still fresh in most Seminole fans' heads, he was born in Berlin and fell in love with the sport through his involvement in flag football as a teenager. In high school he was torn between pursuing his ambition to play football professionally and homesickness after his dreams took him from his native Germany to Connecticut.
Werner played just two seasons of high school football but showed enough raw potential to garner a four-star prospect ranking and a scholarship from Florida State.
Once in Tallahassee Werner turned his attention to perfecting his craft. He appeared in every game his freshman season, notching 20 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks as a reserve.
Then in his next two seasons as a starter he went on to rack up 20 more sacks and 29 more tackles for loss. He notched seven sacks as a sophomore opposite Brandon Jenkins and then as a junior Werner exploded for 13 more, earning him All-American honors and placement as a finalist on several awards lists.
He went on to be drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of this year's NFL draft.
Now, why Björn Werner over any number of other talented defensive ends? As I mentioned in the honorable mentions, there are 11 players in Florida State history with 20 or more sacks and 14 guys have turned in a 10+ sack season (most of them becoming All-Americans as they did). It's a crowded bunch.
But in terms of play, Werner came to Florida State with just two years of competitive football experience- and let's not pretend prep football in Connecticut is on par with the level of comeptition in states like Florida, Texas and California. So Werner showed up in Tallahassee with nothing but German flag football and two years of high school ball up North under his belt and went on to finish fourth all-time in career sacks at a school like Florida State.
That by itself is impressive. But when you have such a crowded group of talented defensive players to consider, you have to look beyond just the on-field play and statistics. Werner has a lot going for him in that department.
After the school suffered a down period for the first time in nearly two decades in the mid 2000's, Werner was part of a group of players who came to FSU with a stated mission to return the Seminoles to prominence.
FSU isn't there yet, but players like Werner helped them get back in that ballpark. FSU won their first ACC Championship in seven years last season and just their second BCS bowl ever. More to the point, the defense Werner starred on was the first one in a long time that was reminscent of the defenses from Florida State's glory days.
And starred is the right word. Werner captured the hearts and imaginations of the Seminole faithful early in his second year and by the time he was ready to leave had become a pseudo-celebrity amongst the Seminole fanbase.
Had he stuck around another year, Werner would have had a shot to break FSU's all-time sacks records. He grew considerably as a player every year he wore the Garnet and Gold. And considering his rookie season will be just his sixth year of competitive football (ever), who knows what his potential is.
Then there's what he means to his home country of Germany. It's still too early to determine that legacy, but Werner's stated intention after he is finished playing football is to try and help culture more interest in the sport in Germany. Down the road if he's successful in that, it could in turn push him upward on the list of all-time Seminole greats. But for now, so early in his career it had a neglible impact on his inclusion.
What did have an impact was his impressive production even in spite of a lack of experience and the esteem Seminole fans held him in after just three years.
In many ways Werner is a perfect embodiment of the transformation that has been underway at Florida State for the past few years. When Werner got to Tallahassee, he- like the program at that time- was young and inexperienced but had raw talent. By the time he left it was really starting to turn into something.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal number 22 on the coundtown of All-Time Seminole greats...
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