*Menelik Watson Florida State The former basketball player and United Kingdom native is still learning the game of football. His DNA (tape) tells me that there is an exceptionally bright future ahead of him if he continues to work hard and grow into the position. He has a great combination of size, length and athletic ability. Aligns at RT, but the athletic ability in place tells me that he will start out at LT. Watson is a pass blocker who is not consistent in playing with good knee bend; pad level rises for a natural athlete, which tells me more technique is needed. Very good snap to set, and has the feet to slide laterally like a dancing bear; defeats edge player on upfield shoulder, and can redirect and slide to protect inside. Run blocker with very good movement to sift through traffic, locating and attacking defender on the move and in the second level. Has good UOH (use of hands) to punch and steer defender. Watson is competitive, tough and flashes nasty temperament in both run- and pass-blocking. He had the combine buzzing as talk over this “one-year wonder” intensified. Has the upside to develop into one of the best LTs in the 2013 draft class. I worry about this player’s long-term passion for the game, considering his non-football background and the fact that he hails from another country. Limited overall base and knowledge of the full process of the game of football; just a PUP, albeit with very good upside. Softli – First-round talent, second-round pick.
Florida State University Seminoles
Manchester, Great Britain
Saddeleback Community College
Marist College (Basketball)
Canarias Basketball Academy, Spain
One of the most gifted athletes in this draft, the former basketball player from Great Britain hopes that his literal “world tour” will lead to a home in the National Football League. Ever since his childhood growing up in Manchester, the two-sport star had dreams of playing professional ball one day – only he did not think it would be on the gridiron. Hopefully, before trying to turn that dream into a reality, Watson enrolled in a few frequent flyer plans, as his journey through the sports world should have earned him a few free airline tickets by now.
Raised by a single mother, Watson grew up poor, living in the toughest of neighborhoods in Manchester, England. Through much of his early childhood, he dreamed of one day becoming a soccer player, but soon realized that might not be the best avenue to take to escape the “tough streets.” As a teenager, Watson had excelled on the soccer field, developing quick feet and exceptional balance. But there was no future in soccer for him, and what he wanted more than anything was a chance at something better than the crime and poverty that surrounded him in Manchester.
He was introduced to the sport of basketball upon entering Burnage School, but knew that England was not exactly a “Mecca” for producing players that could one day challenge Kobe Bryant in the National Basketball League. His family had little, and several brothers had already run afoul of the law. At 6-foot-7 with a bushy beard and a gold tooth, Watson cut an imposing figure, and he might have been a more celebrated recruit among local criminals than by any serious basketball programs. While he had the look to fit his upbringing, that smile always told the real story.
Sort of like Jack the Beanstalk, Watson “kissed” his mother good-bye and embarked on a sports odyssey that would that would span three countries, six cities and two continents over the last six years. Leaving Manchester to improve his basketball skills, he packed a suitcase and headed to the famed Canarias Basketball Academy in Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, Spain – distance, 2,668 miles.
In 2007, he joined Orellana in Spain and was named a team captain of their traveling basketball team. “He comes from a very tough background,” said Rob Orellana, who stumbled upon Watson playing basketball during a 2006 tournament in Manchester and recruited him for his prep team in Spain. “Single mom, and one of the toughest neighbor-hoods in England. Watson found a father figure, and when his own daughter was born, he named her after his coach. “It’s a bond that will last forever between us,” Orellana said.
He’s as big as an ox, “but it’s just that smile.”
After two years and a tour of the United States, Watson earned a basketball scholarship to Marist College in 2009. He once again packed his bags and hopped on a plane from Spain to the United States, arriving on the Marist College campus in Poughkeepsie, New York – distance, 4,989 miles.
The transition to life in the United States wasn’t easy. He was redshirted in his freshman season, and the challenges of life with a new team in a new country were difficult. But at Marist, Watson played alongside another undersized power forward he’d met during a tournament a year earlier. Rob Johnson came from a distinctly different background than Watson, but they were kindred spirits. “He’s like a brother to me,” Johnson said.
The two even sport the same tattoo, an image of an eagle and a lock. There’s a deeper meaning to it, Johnson said, but it essentially symbolizes an unbreakable bond. “Locked in,” Johnson said.
Watson red-shirted during the 2009-10 schedule for the Red Foxes before earning a spot as a forward on Marist’s hoops squad in 2010-11. He would start thirteen of the 29 games he appeared in that season, averaging sixteen minutes, 4.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while serving as squad captain as a red-shirt freshman. As much as he enjoyed the game, he soon realized that he might be too small to have a career in the National Basket-ball Association. There would not be any games vs. Kobe Bryant for the youngster, as he looked for other “avenues” to continue his athletic trek.
The rough neighborhoods of Manchester left Watson with little room for sentimentality.
He loved basketball, but he saw the writing on the wall. He was undersized to play power forward professionally, and without a contract offer from a quality team in Europe, he’d likely end up back on those same streets he’d worked so hard to leave behind. He began looking for other options.
At first, Watson tried his hand at boxing. He was powerful and quick. “He could’ve been heavyweight champion,” Orellana said. Watson had a lineman’s build, a basketball player’s feet and a boxer’s hands. He was a football coach’s dream, except that he had no idea how to play the game.
Still, Rob and Watson’s brother, Reggie, began making phone calls. They left messages for coaches at big-time programs. They mailed letters to recruiting coordinators with dim hopes of getting a reply. A few years earlier, Rob had met Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed at a party, and he asked Reed to get word to the coaching staff at his alma mater, Miami, about Watson’s potential.
Now, not too many major colleges were looking to bring in a “greenhorn” from across the pond, especially on a football scholarship, so, he went the alternative route – playing for a junior college. Several phone calls led Watson to the Saddleback College Gauchos. That meant packing his bags again, leaving behind the red jersey of the Marist College Red Foxes to “head west.” From Poughkeepsie, New York, he traveled to Mission Viejo, California – distance, 2,822 miles.
Having never played the game of football, Watson was a “quick study” and a prized student for Saddleback College head coach Mark McElroy. Watson had done his “homework” in choosing what school to learn the game of football at. McElroy had compiled an overall record of 99-44 before Watson arrived for the 2011 season.
McElroy led Saddleback to bowl games for eleven-straight seasons (2001-11). He was named the Region IV coach-of-the-year in 2004 and 2006, and has had ten former players advance to the NFL. A total of 111 players have transferred to Division I or DIAA (sub-division) programs during his tenure and 244 players have transferred to four-year institutions in thirteen seasons.
Watson would be his latest discovery. Basically undergoing a “baptism under fire,” he played in eight games on the eleven-game schedule and moved into the starting lineup at weak-side offensive tackle by midseason. He helped lead the team to an 8-3 record, as he finished with 61 knockdowns, nine touchdown-resulting blocks and also blocked a kick.
He was named second-team All-Southern California Football Association and was rated a three-star prospect by both Rivals.com and Scout.com.
McElroy recalls the phone call he received from Watson back in June 2011, to explain why he wanted to come and play football for the coach, but there are few stories McElroy hasn’t heard. “I got an email yesterday from a guy who graduated high school seven years ago and never played quarterback, but he’s been working with a coach and he wants to play quarterback,” McElroy said. So when Watson explained his background, McElroy needed little convincing. “I just said, ‘Okay, well, show up in August,’ ” McElroy said.
Watson arrived on campus in time for Saddleback’s first two-a-day session. He requested a spot on the defensive line. During that first practice, Watson went up vs. Saddleback’s talented quarterback-turned-left tackle, Kyle Long, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long and the brother of St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long.
Kyle took note of Watson’s agility, his footwork and his athleticism, and he knew his new teammate had no business working with the defense. By the second practice session of the day, Long had recruited Watson to the offensive line. “I walked out with a white jersey and said, ‘You’re playing right tackle,’ ” Long said. “From that day on, he dominated everybody.”
The offensive line was a more comfortable fit, but Watson was still a blank slate when it came to technique. He didn’t know how to get into a stance, didn’t understand how to anticipate the direction of a run, had no grasp of the technical aspects of pass protection.
What Watson did offer was the willingness to learn. “He’s like a sponge,” McElroy said. “He’s one of the most coachable and brightest people I’ve been around.”
Watson’s work ethic paid instant dividends, and with each practice he was taking mammoth steps forward. McElroy’s hope was to have his new tackle ready by midseason.
As it turned out, Watson’s learning curve required less time than that. “He got into his first game in Game Three, and he started for us in Game Four,” McElroy said. “By Game Six, we were getting calls from all over the country about him.”
Watson soon became a recruiter’s “dream,” as his combination of size and athleticism had him being pursued by Florida State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Auburn, California and Rutgers.
Watson’s days at Saddleback ended after one season, as the Florida State coaching staff enticed him with a scholarship offer.
Throughout their first year at Marist, Johnson’s younger brother Reggie had pushed the two to make a trip to Tallahassee, where Reggie was a student at Florida State. In the fall of 2010 they relented, making the trip for the Seminoles’ game vs. Brigham Young – the first college football game Watson had ever attended.
In England, Watson had heard about the hysteria and pageantry of marquee college basketball games between Duke and North Carolina, but the sheer spectacle of Florida State football amazed him. He was transfixed by the game, but every few minutes another Seminoles fan would notice the hulking 300-pounder in the stands and ask whether he was a recruit. It became a running joke, and the Johnson brothers were quick to prod Watson to consider a future on the football field. “That really planted a seed within him,” Reggie said.
As has been his custom since 2007, he packed up his belongings, left Mission Viejo and traveled to Tallahassee, Florida – distance, 2, 237 miles. Watson enrolled at Florida State in January, 2012, participating in spring drills. He would go on to start twelve of the thirteen games he appeared in. For an offense that struggled for a few “lean years” before his arrival, the Seminoles would go on to have a record-breaking season, amassing 6,591 yards in total offense, breaking the previous FSU annual mark of 6,588 yards.
The Seminoles right offensive tackle fit right in with his new team. The offense capitalized on his raw power and foot speed cutting down edge rushers, as they averaged 471.5 yards per game and ranked tenth in the nation in scoring (39.29 ppg). Watson would earn All-Atlantic Coast Conference recognition for his efforts while delivering twelve touchdown-resulting blocks for a running corps that scored 40 times. In just his second career start at FSU, Watson was named ACC Lineman of the Week for his performance vs. Clemson.
Shortly after Florida State defeated Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl, he again realized that he was at the crossroads of his career – and life. The many travels over the seven years left him little time to care for his family back home. He was 24-year-old and the “time clock” was ticking. He made one of the toughest decisions when he announced that he would be leaving behind life in college for the professional ranks.
Despite the pleadings of Florida State’s coaches, Watson elected to make himself eligible for the 2013 draft after just one season in Tallahassee. He realizes that he is clearly a work in progress. However, just as clear is his athleticism. It is easy to question Watson’s motivation or love for football. Offensive line coaches, however, could just as easily fall in love with his obvious upside and push for the England native surprisingly early on draft weekend.
Watson has just two seasons of football experience, starting 12-of-13 games at right offensive tackle for Florida State and seven-of-eight contests during his 2010 season at Saddleback College…In nineteen starting assignments, he collected 148 knockdowns and 21 touchdown-resulting blocks, as he also recorded a solo tackle and blocked one kick.
All-American Super Sleeper Team and All-Atlantic Coast Conference second-team choice by The NFL Draft Report, adding All-ACC honorable mention from the league’s coaches and media…Appeared in thirteen games at right offensive tackle for the Seminoles, starting all but the North Carolina State clash…Graded 76.2% for blocking consistency, as he posted 87 key blocks/knockdowns, along with twelve touchdown-resulting blocks… Despite just p[laying his second season on the gridiron, he allowed only one quarterback sack on a front wall that yielded 26 sacks for losses of 183 yards…Was a major contributor to an FSU offense which will go down in school history as the most productive ever, as the team racked up a season-record 6,591 yards which surpassed the 2000 team (6,588) for the most yards…An outstanding blocker who played a key role in FSU’s resurgent running game, which averaged 206.21 yards a game (second in the ACC and 24th in the nation) and produced a single-season record 40 rushing touchdowns…Was selected as the Top New-comer on Offense at the team’s annual banquet…Helped an offense that generated at least 200 yards rushing in eight contests and at least 600 total yards in four games…Produced ten key blocks in a 51-7 rout of Boston College, delivering two touchdown-resulting blocks, including a drive block that upended linebacker Sean Duggan on a 3-yard scoring run by fullback Lonnie Pryor…In the Maryland clash, he had ten key blocks, racing into the second level to cut block linebacker L.A. Goree and crush rush end A.J. Francis to clear away the final obstacle on a 22-yard touchdown jaunt by tailback James Wilder, Jr., as the Seminoles piled up 237 yards on the ground.
Watson enjoyed a stellar football debut as a right offensive tackle for the Saddleback Community College Gauchos, playing for head coach Mark McElroy…Did not play in the team’s first few games, but would start the team’s final seven games while appearing in eight contests…Earned second-team All-Southern California Football Association honors while teaming with left tackle Kyle Long to give the Gauchos one of the most coveted bookend blockers in the junior college ranks…Also recorded a solo tackle and blocked a kick on special team action…Helped the Gauchos record an 8-3 record, as the offense averaged 470.36 yards per game, including 338.64 yards passing…Credited with 61 key blocks/knockdowns and nine touchdown-resulting blocks.
In his only season lettering for the Marist College Red Foxes basketball team, Watson started thirteen of the 29 games that he appeared in…Elected team captain, the forward/ center logged 468 minutes on the court (16.1 mpg), as he made 49-of-103 field goals (.476), hit on 2-of-3 treys and connected on 36-of-39 free throws, averaging 4.7 points per game (136)…Grabbed 96 rebounds (3.3 rpg), handed out eleven assists and had six steals… Earned MAAC Rookie of the Week honors after averaging 11.0 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting .571 from the field vs. Big East Conference foe Rutgers and defending league champions Lehigh (Patriot) and Vermont (America East)…Had career highs of 15 points and eight rebounds at Rutgers.
Watson enrolled at Marist College, but red-shirted for the basketball team as a freshman.
No major injuries reported.
5.29 in the 40-yard dash…1.89 10-yard dash…3.02 20-yard dash…5.01 20-yard shuttle…
8.31 three-cone drill…24 1/2-inch vertical jump…8’6” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times…34-inch arm length…10 3/8-inch hands…80 7/8-inch wingspan.
Watson graduated from Burnage High School, in Manchester, England in 2006, where he played soccer and basketball…Left England for Las Palmas, Spain in 2007, attending the famed Canaria Basketball Academy in Gran Canaria…Spent two seasons at the academy and also played for the Orellana traveling team, serving as squad captain.
General Studies major…Born 12/22/88 in Manchester, Great Britain.
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