Former New England Patriots OT Sebastian Vollmer announced his retirement with an intention to move into broadcasting and I’ve been fighting with myself on how to commemorate this moment.
Vollmer was the Patriots fourth selection in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, 58th overall, after SS Patrick Chung (34th), DT Ron Brace (40th), and CB Darius Butler (41st). The selection was a surprise as Vollmer was not invited to the NFL Combine, an event for the top college prospects, but Vollmer impressed as a 25-year-old rookie before supplanting Nick Kaczur at right tackle in 2010.
That sophomore season might have been the peak of Vollmer’s career as he started all 16 games and was named Second Team All Pro. He never started all 16 games again in his career, despite playing at a high level whenever he was healthy.
Vollmer had back surgery in college and battled head injuries during his career. He suffered a couple back injuries in 2011, broke his leg in 2013, and missed the entire 2016 season due to shoulder and hip surgeries. Vollmer played 88 of a possible 128 games over the course of his career and will be replaced by Marcus Cannon, who is coming off a career year.
Whenever a long-standing member of the Patriots retires (and eight years of Vollmer is a lifetime in football), I like to reflect on what that player brought to the team. I struggled to find exactly how Vollmer left his mark in New England.
Vollmer was a great tackle for a span of time, but he was overshadowed by Matt Light, who started almost twice as many games over the course of his career. Vollmer was a great tackle in the greater context of the league, but his light burned for such a short time.
I feel like the Vollmer’s lasting impact might not be enshrined in the Patriots Hall of Fame, but instead how Patriots fans view the franchise and how Bill Belichick builds his roster.
The selection of Vollmer wasn’t the apex “In Bill We Trust” (going with Tom Brady over Drew Bledsoe will forever remain the gold standard), but Vollmer is everyone’s reference point when Belichick drafts a player that might not be as well known or as well regarded. The success of Vollmer coincided with the growing popularity of the NFL Draft and it served as an exclamation point that perhaps there is more than one way to approach the process.
For every Jermaine Cunningham and Tavon Wilson that Belichick surprisingly drafts in the second round, there will always be the success of Sebastian Vollmer forcing Patriots fans to think “what if?”
Vollmer was a part of three Super Bowl teams in his eight-year career (yes, I will count his 2016 season on the reserves) and six conference championships. He was a fixture on the offensive line and one of the best right tackles in a league that treated the position like an afterthought. He changed the way Patriots fans approached and understood the game, and for that Vollmer will always be remembered.