’Speed has always been a primary asset for Moritz Böhringer, but the speed at which the game came flying at him last year was both eye-opening yet somewhat expected.
Perhaps no other player in the NFL last year had to adapt to so many things off the field and on as the Minnesota Vikings’ 2016 sixth-round draft pick at receiver.
The Germany transplant had to learn the techniques of NFL players and temper expectations abroad, deal with an initial barrage of media attention, both in the United States and in Germany, and learn to live on his own for the first time in his life. At the end of a season on the practice squad, he emerged with the belief that he still belongs in the NFL and can eventually be a game-day contributor.
“Definitely. If I wouldn’t think so I wouldn’t be here and I would say no and I would go back to Germany and I can’t do that. I can’t handle that,” he said. “I think I can do it [here].”
He has a desirable size-speed ratio for a wide receiver, but raw speed isn’t enough. In the NFL, technique has to be the coupled with speed to create separation from defensive backs.
On the field, that was the first big learning step from the former German Football League star.
“It’s definitely a crazy situation here. It’s way different from Germany, but I learned a lot, probably more than I could ever learn in Germany in my entire career,” he said after his rookie season.
“Just adapting to the speed of the game. I think the last 10 weeks or so everything calmed down and slowed down.”
Böhringer’s speed and desire were enough to get his favorite NFL team, the Vikings, to draft him in the sixth round last year, making him the first player to be drafted by an NFL team directly from Europe.
The Vikings knew it would take time and lot of work to turn the former star of the Scwabisch Hall Unicorns and the GFL rookie of the year into a viable NFL product. He has relied on many for help, from before he was drafted and throughout his first year in the NFL.
It started with Anquan Boldin and Pierre Garcon, who worked out with Böhringer in Florida before the season. During spring and summer camps, he tried to learn everything he could from his position coach last year, George Stewart, and the other receivers on the team.
Still, there were ups and downs in his development, especially in the first several months.
“Sometimes I just show stuff and then the next time – I don’t know why – it doesn’t work anymore. Just consistency,” he said.
“It’s always consistency.”
He consistently has the speed, but didn’t always have consistency in his techniques and routes. At least now he has a better understanding of what is needed.
“The thing is you have to always have control when you run full speed and that’s what I have worked on most, especially in the route running you have to have full control of your body at all times,” he said.
“I kind of knew that it had to be like that because people are really good here so you have to be really precise to get open. It’s another thing to know what you have to do and then to do it.”
In Europe, Böhringer had three straight seasons with more than 1,000 yards receiving. His foray into American football started in 2013, when he caught 43 passes for 1,169 yards and averaged a whopping 27.2 yards per catch and had 20 touchdowns. He bettered that in his second season, putting up 1,697 yards, averaging 33.3 yards per catch and notching 21 touchdowns.
His success in Europe and his transition to the NFL put the media spotlight shining brightly on him last year, including appearances on NFL Network just before the Vikings drafted him. After a couple weeks of attention, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer declared the feel-good story was over, saying it was time for the 6-foot-4, 225-pound speedster to concentrate on football.
But the German media was even more prevalent, calling his parents and wanting the story on him.
“Fortunately it settled down a bit, too,” he said. “In the beginning it was just too much. They called my parents at home.
“People didn’t know that it’s a big difference, just playing in Germany and having a great highlight tape there and having a great workout, then to actually play here is a big difference. I knew that I wouldn’t be a superstar from the beginning here.”
To date, he’s only been a practice-squad player, but eventually he hopes to change that and become a contributor on the field. For now, however, there is more work before he gets to that place.