Tuesday, May 21, 2013
ORONO - Benedict Wezel loved playing soccer while growing up in Berlin. Then one day he and his brother went to watch an NFL Europe game.
Benedict Wezel discovered football in his native Berlin, played for a club team there, and now is at UMaine with hopes of someday getting a chance to play in the NFL.
Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer
MAINE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
• Saturday: At Boston College, 1 p.m.
• Sept. 15: At Bryant, 1 p.m.
• Sept. 22: Albany at Maine, 6 p.m.
• Sept. 29: Villanova at Maine, 3:30 p.m.
• Oct. 6: At Delaware, 3:30 p.m.
• Oct. 13: At Towson, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 20: New Hampshire at Maine, noon
• Oct. 27: at William & Mary, 3:30 p.m.
• Nov. 3: James Madison at Maine, 3:30 p.m.
• Nov. 10: Georgia State at Maine, 2 p.m.
• Nov. 17: At Rhode Island, noon
"We loved it," he said. "And we kept thinking, 'How can we play if we want to do that?' "
Well, when you're 6-foot-8 and weigh 310 pounds, there's always a chance that football is going to find you. As it was, Wezel found an American football club team to play for in Berlin -- the Berlin Eagles -- and that led to a journey to the United States and eventually, Orono.
"It was always my dream, coming over here," he said. "Not like, for playing football. I just always wanted to come to the United States, just to see how it is. Everyone says America is the land of dreams. Then I had the opportunity to get an education and combine with the sport I love."
Wezel played a year at the Salisbury (Conn.) School -- his coach in Berlin knew the coach at Salisbury and suggested Wezel might be a good fit. That's where Jack Cosgrove, the coach of the Black Bears, discovered him. As soon as he saw Wezel, Cosgrove knew he was looking at something special.
Wezel was being looked at by major schools such as Miami (Fla.) and Temple. But the fact he had only played American football for two years scared them off.
Not Cosgrove, who took similar chances in the past on Mike DeVito and Matt Mulligan, players with little or no high school football-playing experience. Both now play in the NFL: DeVito is a defensive lineman for the New York Jets, Mulligan a tight end with the St. Louis Rams.
"For us to have a kid that size is not an automatic, like at Miami or Temple," said Cosgrove. "It made us work that much harder in our evaluation of him. Simple because when you're that big, you're usually not around for our level of football. And it was all about his experience, all about how much football he played.
"We felt Ben just needed to play the game, and be coached in the game and grow in the game."
Cosgrove made three trips to Salisbury to see Wezel, the last one in a snowstorm that turned an hour's drive from Hartford into three hours.
"Later that night I got the call that he was going to commit to Maine," said Cosgrove.
Wezel, who also had scholarship offers from New Hampshire and Rhode Island, sat out last year as a redshirt, meaning he has four years of eligibility remaining.
He said there's one huge difference between playing football here and in Germany: "It's the same game, just way more serious here. People love playing back home, but it's more like a free-time activity. Here, especially at the college level, it's like a job. It's a huge part of your life."
He'll major in business but doesn't hide the fact that he would love to follow a fellow German, Sebastian Vollmer, to the NFL. Vollmer, from Dusseldorf, plays tackle for the New England Patriots, Wezel's favorite NFL team.
"Of course I know who he is," said the 21-year-old Wezel in English with more than a hint of an accent.
"I work hard in the weight room. I have that goal in mind. If I keep working hard I hope to get a shot after my senior year. We will see."
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: