News

Menelik Watson Media Session

Posted Apr 26, 2013

Raiders second-round draft choice, T Menelik Watson, took questions from the media via conference call.

On how much contact he had with the Raiders leading up to the draft: “I didn’t have much contact. I know Zack Crockett, he’s a former Seminole and he was excited about the prospect of me meeting with the Raiders at the Combine. It was nice to sit down with them for 15 minutes and that was literally it; that’s all it was. It was a big surprise for me; a very happy surprise.”

On if he followed former British import Jack Crawford’s path to the Raiders: “Yes, I know Jack Crawford. Me and him, he will tell you, we played each other when we were 15, 16 years old in the English national championship game and we actually beat them by 25 points. But yeah, Jack was one of the top prospects in England and in parts of Europe too at the time. He was really good, and when he got drafted last year I meant to get his number and text him and congratulate him too.”

On how he decided to go from playing basketball to football: “At the time, when I was playing basketball, things just happened at Marist and things happened in my life where I needed a change, and I was planning on going back to Europe and getting a job. Actually, I didn’t know what I was going to do; I was going home with no plan. Before I left, a lot of people were telling me to try and play football. I know obviously what happened with Jack Crawford when he came over to the states. My friend Matt Williams plays college football at Cal Berkeley. We have a similar situation, but they all did it out of the prep school level, but I was trying to convert from the college level. When I got out on the field I just found a love and passion for the sport, the physicality of it and just the history of the sport.”

On how boxing and playing soccer and basketball helps his football development: “Just the footwork; in soccer, the footwork, being able to do things with your feet that just become second nature. Then basketball is more so seeing angles and cutting off players and being able to move your feet and shift and understand degrees and leverages and things like that. With boxing, just my hands, just being able to strike, being disciplined, and knowing when to strike. In football you’ve got a short window and when you do strike, if you move your hand at the wrong time, the defender is going to use it to his ability, so it definitely helped me with all those.”

On if he found the game of football baffling when he first started playing: “I found it baffling because I didn’t understand a thing that was going on. I remember the first practice we were on a pass play and I didn’t know you weren’t allowed to go upfield on a pass play, so I just grabbed this defensive end and just ran him all the way up the field about 10 yards and Coach Mac down there at Saddleback was watching the film and he was like, ‘Son, you can’t do that. It’s a pass play.’ And he kind of, at the time, was like, ‘God, what am I working with here?’ After that I figured out which is pass and which is run and once I figured that out it was fairly easy.”

On how he ended up playing offensive tackle: “I went out there the first day, I went for defense, and I had a good day at defense, but I really wasn’t sure if it was the right fit. Then Kyle Long, son of Howie, he was there with me at the time, so as I walked off the field he told me that I need to change my jersey and come on offense, so he was like, ‘Come on, you’re going to play offensive line.’ I went out there and they were like, ‘Well, we like you at tackle,’ so obviously Kyle played left tackle so I went over to the right side. It was just really comfortable and really easy just concentrating on the ends and being able to set angles and have your feet keep up with the quick guys.”

On how quickly football became second nature for him: “As soon as I knew what the plays were. I think I was doing well, but a lot of times I didn’t really understand assignment-type things, so I went out there and I never go half speed. But I would say once I got about my second game in, third game in, I knew who I could get. I was like, ‘Perfect, now I can go over and just smash them in the face or run them up field, block them and stuff.’ After that, everything started speeding up after that.”

On if he has played some left tackle as well: “No, I’ve done a few things when I left Saddleback. I used to do a lot of heavy sets where I go over outside the left tackle and run some plays out there. This whole off-season I’ve been working with some coaches, working out the left side stance and things like that. I’m ready to do whatever. I think there’s no limit to what I can play or what I can do. I’m sure once I’ve got two, three snaps at left tackle and there’s a guy trying to come at me, I’m sure instincts will kick in and I’ll be able to help myself over there.”

On when he started thinking about playing in the NFL: “You know what’s funny? I wrote this draft when I was leaving Marist, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to share it with you guys, and this draft just basically explains who I am, where I’m from. I said in that letter I wrote, I wrote that, with a chance, I know I can play at the highest level, in the NFL. I just knew that I needed the right coach and the right situation and, obviously I’m disciplined enough to go out there and put in the extra time and I knew that it was possible.”

On if he considers himself a “raw” player: “No, I don’t consider myself raw. That’s been a lot of the talk, ‘He’s raw,’ and all this stuff. I don’t consider myself raw. I just think the way I do things is a lot different than the traditional. There’s obviously still a lot of techniques I need to learn, there’s a lot of little things. Obviously in every sport, the great thing about football is that you, more so than other sports, you never really learn everything. There’s still things you can improve on, especially when you start aging, there’s other things that can give you an advantage. I definitely do know there are a lot of technical things I need to polish up. I don’t necessarily consider it being raw.”

On if he played special teams in school: “At Saddleback I used to be on the field goal block team, field goal kicks. I would like to do field goal coverage, run downhill and run over a couple guys, run over the wedge or the blockers. We’ll see; whatever the coaches deem they need to do if it means we win games; whatever we’ve got to do to win some games, that’s the biggest thing.”

On if he feels like he can contribute to the Raiders right away: “Yeah, I have no question I can.”

On if he talked to Howie Long about the Raiders: “You know what’s funny? Howie gave me a lot of advice when I first started playing football. I used to ask him about it and stuff. I know the game has changed totally from when he was playing, and I’ve seen a few of his highlights. He said he loved it, and he just told me about the fans. The funny thing is, when I got a call from you guys, when I was a kid I knew nothing about American football but I had an Oakland Raiders jersey for some reason and I don’t know where it came from or how we got it. I think it’s my older brother’s and I don’t know how he got it but I used to wear Oakland Raiders jersey so it’s really strange that I’m getting drafted for them.”

On what number the jersey was: “I’m not sure. I could find out. I think it’s still back home. It is back home. It’s in my wardrobe back in England.”

On if he knew what the jersey referred to at the time: “I had no clue. I think I kind of heard of the NFL, never watched it, never really was televised, but I heard of it. I knew it was a football league, I didn’t know what it was. I used to think it was similar to rugby, and people said, ‘Yeah, it’s like rugby, but they start and stop every minute,’ so that was my impression.”

On if he was worried about the level of competition when he transferred from Marist to Florida State: “No, no, no. The reason I went to Florida State was because I was really interested in going to one of the SEC schools that were recruiting me, but the defensive ends and the defensive linebackers, the whole defense we had at Florida State was one of the big reasons why I went because I know, obviously, at practice is really where you get better. Practice is a time when you tune-up and get ready for the weekend. The games are really the fun part because you know your assignments, you know what you’ve got to do, you’ve just got to go out there and mash a guy you’ve not seen all day. It’s kind of, you know, because practice is a different dynamic; you see the guys every day, it’s really more of a mental tune-up and the guys I was going against: Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine and Brandon Jenkins, I knew they would get me ready. It was definitely the reason I went there.”

On if he fits the new regime in Oakland of guys who are no-nonsense and show up to work hard every day: “That’s me to a T. I was at the draft yesterday and I didn’t really want to go because I’m not really into the glitz and the glamour. I’m really a work guy. I really just want to hurry up and get to work. You guys are actually stalling me right now because I was going to work out right now but I had to get on a call with you guys, but that’s me. I don’t go out and I’m not into the nightlife. The biggest reason for coming out is I wanted to get myself a job and get myself an occupation. I think that’s pretty much it. That’s me to a T.”

On how boxing has helped him play football: “Just being disciplined with my hands and being able to strike with force within a split second. Being disciplined with your hands, as you know, in boxing the boxers have to be disciplined with how they throw their hands, the timing of their hands. With a lot of defensive ends it’s the same situation. You have to be careful; you can’t just throw your arms out there because obviously they’re going to use it to their advantage.”

On if he thought about seriously pursuing boxing or just wanted to try it: “Well, my coach from Spain always wanted me to get in the boxing ring because he just saw the force I used to dunk the basketball with and I did find some interest in it. It’s just that I’m not really too keen on participating in individualistic sports. That’s why I love the offensive line because we’re a unit and if one messes up, we all mess up, and if one we all do well, we all celebrate together. Nobody really gives us the love or no one ever puts us in the papers and stuff. I’m a big team sports guy.”

On why he chose Manchester City over Manchester United: “Because Man United sucks. I don’t want to cuss on the phone. Maybe when I’m there we can sit down, I’ll tell you the real reason. My brother is a United fan and my other brother is a United fan. The whole three days they were here we were just talking about it. Man United has won the championship and I was really pissed off, but there’s always next year.”