ORONO — Daniel Burrows had an understandable concern the first time he saw Ben Wezel.

“I was like, ‘Holy crap, this guy’s on the team? I hope not everyone is this big,’ ” Burrows said of that freshman encounter with Wezel, then a 6-foot-8, 310-pound sophomore lineman for Maine.

“Then he came over and shook my hand and said (Burrows takes on a German accent), ‘Hello, my name is Benedict Wezel.’ He’s very prim and proper, very polite.”

And thankfully for Burrows, much larger than the typical Division I football player.

Two years later, Burrows and Wezel are good friends and the starting guards for a Black Bear team that will be seeking its first victory of the season Saturday when it faces Rhode Island in the home opener at 3:30 p.m. It is also Maine’s first Colonial Athletic Association game of the season.

Burrows, who played in 10 games as a redshirt freshman last year, was expected to be a starter this fall. Wezel is stepping into that role because Daniel Carriker’s career was curtailed by a concussion.


Wezel has five years of experience at Maine to draw on, but was primarily a tackle in the past. He was moved to guard, Coach Jack Cosgrove said, because he struggled to block quicker defensive ends, and to take advantage of his size against equally hefty defensive tackles.

“You get a thicker kid inside that fits his makeup, his skill set better,” Cosgrove said.

Wezel grew up in Berlin, playing Germany’s version of football with his younger brother. But he outgrew soccer and became captivated with American football when attending games of the Berlin Thunder of the now-defunct NFL Europe. He played the sport for three years in Germany before heading to the States, spending a prep year at the Salisbury School in Connecticut.

Maine’s coaches saw him there, and Wezel chose the Black Bears over New Hampshire and Rhode Island. It’s been a great fit, he said. Wezel is finishing up a marketing degree, has made many friends on the football team and has found a second family of sorts through his girlfriend, a UMaine graduate who lives in New Hampshire. Wezel hasn’t been home in three years, but his mother and brother watch his games online.

Wezel played offensive and defensive line at Salisbury, where he struggled at times with the language barrier, constantly having to turn around to have his quarterback repeat play calls.

When it came to college, there was no question he would stay on offense.


“I like protecting the quarterback. I like the camaraderie of the five offensive linemen. We all have to do the same thing together to achieve good stuff,” Wezel said. “As a defensive lineman, you can do your own thing and still make a good play.”

In that respect, the offensive line is more like soccer, Wezel said.

Wezel wasn’t happy with his play during spring practices, saying he had concentrated too much on adding muscle and sacrificed speed in the process. So he spent the summer shedding 10 pounds and working on his lateral quickness and agility, a decision he said is paying off.

Still, his size can be a detriment in the interior of the offensive line because much shorter defensive tackles have found it easier to knock him off balance.

“They always have the better leverage,” Wezel said. “It’s important for me to stay low, keep my pads low. It’s one of the things I have to concentrate on. The first step I take, I get my chest up sometimes.”

It’s been a difficult start to the season for the offensive line, a close-knit unit with a great deal of game experience. Wezel started seven games a year ago. The Black Bears have put up only 10 points in season-opening losses to FBS opponents Boston College and Tulane.


Cosgrove said none of the linemen have graded out to his expectations. He’d like to see Wezel, in particular, be more tenacious when firing off the line.

Wezel, who comes across as extremely mild-mannered, said that’s the plan. His grasp of a sport that is so foreign in his home country that no games are ever televised has improved dramatically in his six years in America.

Burrows said Wezel takes a back seat to nobody when studying film and understanding strategy.

His English has improved as well. Wezel chooses his words carefully, even stopping in mid-sentence to correct his grammar while answering a reporter’s question.

Burrows has helped out by tossing in German salutations when he sees Wezel, making it a point to wish him “Guten Morgen” (good morning).

“It makes my day every day when he says that,” Wezel said. “My roommate, Bruce Johnson, also, he speaks some German. Usually just the curse words.”

The next goal is to get the Rhode Island defensive line cursing. In English or German.


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