Cologne - Björn Werner made history as the first German to become an NFL first-round draft pick, but despite having his sights on the Super Bowl, the Indianapolis Colts star still has time for his childhood love: Hertha Berlin.
bundesliga.com: You're about to start the NFL season. What are your hopes for yourself and the Indianapolis Colts?
Björn Werner: On a personal level, I'm hoping, first and foremost, to be able to stay fit and healthy so I can continue to improve. The Colts have strengthened immensely in terms of quality, especially in regard to the depth of the squad. Even though things haven't gone our way at the start of the season, I'm still hoping that we can reach the Super Bowl and end up winning the whole thing.
bundesliga.com: You're also a big soccer fan. The Bundesliga season has only just gotten underway. How do see it going?
Werner: There's not much that can be said just four games into the season, but there have already been a few surprises. From a negative perspective, Borussia Mönchengladbach's current dip in form is something no one would have expected to see. At the top of the table, Bayern have started really well, no surprises there. However, I also find the fact Borussia Dortmund have immediately found their feet under Thomas Tuchel exceptional.
bundesliga.com: You were born and grew up in Berlin, so why American football and not football?
Werner: Just like almost every young boy, I played football growing up. At some point in school; there was a kind of organised event in which flag football was incorporated. I had a lot of fun right off the bat and a friend of mine then took me to flag football training with the Berlin Adler. After that, I just stayed…
'I was hooked'
bundesliga.com: Did you have soccer heroes as a kid? If so, who were they?
Werner: I was never the type of person to try and emulate individual idols in either sport. However, being invited to meet the German national team in 2013 in Washington was really special for me. Being able to personally meet players like [Miroslav] Klose, [Lukas] Podolski or [Per] Mertesacker and have a chat with them was a lot of fun. After all, they're just humans like me and you.
bundesliga.com: You're a big fan of Hertha Berlin. Who got you into supporting them?
Werner: As a young boy growing up in Berlin, you've really only got two options: Hertha or Union. When I reached the age where soccer became a real interest of mine, Hertha had just secured promotion to the Bundesliga. That was the team with [Michael] Preetz and Co. playing against Kaiserslautern in front of 75,000 fans at the Olympiastadion - the whole of Berlin was blue and white. By then, I was hooked.
bundesliga.com: Do you remember watching your first game of soccer? Did you go to the Olympiastadion to watch any matches when you were growing up?
Werner: I can't really remember the first game I ever went to. Unfortunately, there also weren't that many games I could go and watch live in the stadium. Then I moved to the USA when I was 16…
bundesliga.com: You finished your high school education in Connecticut and then went to university in Florida. You didn't return much to Germany during that time, so how did you keep track of Hertha?
Werner: Fortunately, you can keep yourself up-to-date pretty well nowadays thanks to the Internet and social media.
bundesliga.com: You left university and became the first German first-round draft pick in NFL history. How did that feeling compare to watching Germany win the World Cup?
Werner: It's absolutely impossible to compare the two. Back then, the draft changed my entire life in the blink of an eye. My life's dream came true. Of course I celebrated the German national team winning the World Cup in 2014. I went nuts about winning the title and was delighted for the lads, but the draft was, for me, an incomparable moment (laughs).
bundesliga.com: What do you think soccer could learn from your sport? And vice versa?
Werner: I think soccer players could demonstrate the ability to absorb contact more. With us, it's a completely different story. What I wonder about soccer players is their ability to hold their nerve. For instance, in really important penalty shootouts. Our kickers experience pressure situations like that where the whole stadium is looking at you, but our goal is a lot bigger and there's normally not a Manuel Neuer standing there (laughs).
bundesliga.com: How do soccer fans in Germany compare to NFL fans across the US?
Werner: You just can't compare soccer fans in Germany with football fans in the States. Here, everybody is totally emotionally invested, they create the atmosphere and really go off during the games. However, before and after the game, you party together with fans from the opposing side, have a barbecue whilst tailgating, drink one or two beers and discuss the game. Games here are much more for the entire family.
bundesliga.com: Your success has already done much to raise the profile of football in Germany, but you are actively trying to do more. We've seen NFL games played at Wembley - what would it mean to you to bring the Colts to the Olympiastadion for a regular season game?
Werner: I believe German NFL fans have definitely deserved to see a game on German soil and we've got a bunch of really awesome stadiums. Playing in front of my home crowd on the Olympiastadion pitch would naturally be something extra special for me.
bundesliga.com: You're an established NFL star now - would you ever swap a Super Bowl victory for being the star player who scores the winning goal for Hertha in the Champions League final?
Werner: What a question! Ultimately the absolute dream for every NFL player is to win at least one Super Bowl and the same goes for me. In a purely sporting sense, there is nothing on this planet that I'd swap that with.
bundesliga.com: Now that the NFL season is underway, you'll have a very busy schedule. Will you be able to make it to a BL match this season?
Werner: I fear not. I'll have to stick with following the games on the Internet or every now and again on the TV. When I am back in Germany, I normally have so many appointments booked in that it would be very difficult for me to get to a game. But who knows, maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in another visit to the Olympiastadion when I'm back home next.