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German Patriots: Vollmer, Johnson and Kuhn



New England Patriots tackle Sebastian Vollmer (76) in the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

The New England Patriots play in Frankfurt, Germany on Sunday. Although it will be the first time the Patriots will be playing in Germany, there are ties between the franchise and country. There have been three German players to play for New England during Bill Belichick‘s tenure as head coach. For anybody to make it to the National Football League is an incredible accomplishment, but it is even more unlikely when that person grows up in a country where football refers to soccer. So prior to kickoff, it is worth taking a look back at these groundbreaking German Patriots.

Sebastian Vollmer

In the 2009 NFL Draft the Patriots moved around in the draft multiple times and ended up with four selections in the second round. With those picks, they obtained DB Patrick Chung, DL Ron Brace, CB Darius Butler and OT Sebastian Vollmer. About the only thing known to the general public about Vollmer was that he was from the University of Houston and was mammoth. At 6-foot-8, 315 pounds, Vollmer certainly had the size to be an NFL offensive tackle, but could he play? The answer was a resounding yes.

Born in Kaarst, Germany, Vollmer did not begin playing American football until he was 14-years old. He played for the Dusseldorf Panther club team, helping them win two National Junior Bowl championships. This led Vollmer to playing in the 2003 Global Junior Championships, which were held in San Diego. That is where college coaches began their recruitment of Vollmer, then a tight end. Vollmer committed to play his college ball for Houston.

His first two years with the Cougars resulted in a redshirt season, and a second as a reserve tight end. Then Vollmer switched to tackle and his career trajectory was forever changed. He bulked up from a 250-pound recruit to over 300 pounds his senior year. Despite limited experience playing football, and specifically offensive tackle, by his final season he had become a first-team All Conference player and an NFL Draft prospect.

Volmer was outstanding fo the New England Patriots, contributing from the beginning as a rookie. He battled back injuries in 2011 (back) and 2013 (leg) but was otherwise a mainstay at right tackle for nearly a decade. Including playoffs he played in 98 games with the New England Patriots. Vollmer won a Super Bowl as a member of the 2014 Patriots. He was the first player born in Germany to win a Super Bowl. After missing the entire 2016 season (another Super Bowl championship) with a hip injury, Sebastian Vollmer retired from the NFL.

In retirement he has become an ambassador for flag football, (American) football worldwide, and is a successful commentator in Germany. Vollmer has also been a regular announcing Patriots NFL Draft selections.

Jakob Johnson

Born in Stuttgart, Germany, Johnson became an NFL groundbreaker. He played for the Stuttgart Scorpions U19 team before coming to American for his senior year of high school. Jakob Johnson worked himself into a major college recruit and signed with the Tennessee Volunteers to play linebacker.

Eventually, Johnson was converted from linebacker to tight end. He was listed 6-foot-5, 285 pounds. As a four year reserve with little experience or production at tight end, Johnson was not selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. Instead, he returned to Germany, where he would play for the Stuttgart Scorpions of the German Football League. He played one season there, putting up respectable numbers (43-474-4) on a team that finished 4-12.

From there, Johnson joined the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program. He was signed to the New England Patriots practice squad for the 2019 season. He joined the active roster for four games as a fullback. In 2020, Jakob Johnson made the 53-man roster out of camp. He would be a regular part of the offensive plan for the Patriots over the next two seasons, appearing in all 34 games including one playoff game.

After his three seasons in New England, Johnson signed with the Las Vegas Raiders prior to the 2022 season. He is still a member of the Raiders, filling a similar role. He said that he left New England because, “they will no longer have my position on the roster.”

Markus Kuhn

Technically Kuhn never played in an NFL game with the New England Patriots, but didn’t want to omit the third German-born player to play for Bill Belichick and the New England Patritos.

Kuhn was born in Mannheim, Germany. Like Vollmer, he began playing football at age 14. He became interested in the sport on family vacations to Florida. He became a LB/DT for the Weinheim Longhorns of the GFL, winning Rookie of the Year and being named a four-time All Star. This was all prior to going to college, where he would play for North Carolina State.

After his N.C. State career he was a seventh-round pick of the New York Giants in the 2012 NFL Draft. He played four seasons for the Giants (2012-to-2015) before an injury at the end of his final season landed him on injured reserve. The New England Patriots took a chance on Kuhn’s recovery, signing him in free agency. But ultimately the play on which Kuhn was injured against Miami in 2015 would prove to be his final NFL snap. He was among the Patriots final cuts out of 2016 training camp. On Jan. 27, 2017 Kuhn announced his retirement from the NFL.

Following his career, Markus Kuhn became a member of the media. He joined Sebastian Vollmer, whom he just playing with for the New England Patriots, in broadcasting Monday Night Football in German, among other media gigs. Kuhn has helped spread the game of American football in his native country.

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