The Washington Times - April 30, 2009, 10:05AM

Leave it to New England’s wily Bill Belichick, the only coach to win three Super Bowls during the past 20 seasons, to select the first European-trained NFL draft choice.

Belichick’s Patriots chose German offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer 58th overall last weekend. The second-round pick played at the University of Houston but received his start in football with the Dusseldorf Panthers and the German junior national team.


“I got a pretty good basic education [in football] when I was playing in Germany,” said the 24-year-old Vollmer, who didn’t take up the sport until he was 14.

The current edition of Springwald’s team will compete in the International Federation of American Football Junior World Championships along with squads from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, France, Sweden, Japan and New Zealand from June 27-July 5 in Canton, Ohio.

“Sebastian’s high draft pick gives us great pleasure here in Germany,” said his former junior national coach Peter Springwald.  “We have a lot of talented players. I am sure that this draft will help our players. I hope that now some more of the American scouts will look to Europe and especially to Germany.”

Belichick, who turned college wrestler Stephen Neal into a starting guard for a Super Bowl team and Matt Cassel, a benchwarmer in college, into a starting quarterback, likes the 6-foot-8, 315-pound Vollmer’s potential.

“I don’t think he’s had quite the football experience that the other players have had, but he’s playing,” Belichick said. “It’s not like Stephen Neal or even a guy like [Matt] Cassel, who didn’t really play in college. Is he as polished as some players at that position? Probably not, but he has a lot of good tools to work with. He’s a tough kid, very smart, a well-conditioned athlete. He’s a big man. But I think he’ll work hard and try to do what we ask him to do. So I think he has a chance.”

- David Elfin