Two players on the team’s current roster and an assistant coach, defensive lineman Jack Crawford and offensive lineman Menelik Watson, and Senior Offensive Assistant Al Saunders, have roots in the United Kingdom.
Crawford was born in London and grew up there before moving to the United States while in high school. Watson hails from Manchester, England, and moved to the United States to play college basketball. Saunders was born in London before his family moved to Northern California when he was a child.
All look forward to the chance to be part of the Raider contingent that will make the trek across the pond.
Saunders was an in-studio analyst for Sky Sports, which broadcasted Super Bowl XXXV in the United Kingdom. He also once served as a guest columnist for GRIDIRON UK, a British publication that covers American football. He mentioned that he was able to get a feel for the enthusiasm that the country has for American football.
“I think it is a tremendous opportunity, not only for the Raider community, but also for the country of England, to see American football at its finest,” Saunders said. “To have such a storied franchise as the Raiders to be part of the international football scene is great. I can personally attest to the fact that we have a large following in England and our fan base in England will be excited to see their favorite Raiders in Wembley in 2014.”
Crawford, the second-year defensive lineman out of Penn State, allowed himself a moment to soak in the gravity of the announcement. “I hate to think that far ahead as my focus is on our next game against Kansas City, but this is terrific news,” said Crawford. “I never thought that me coming from such a long journey, I never would have expected such great news. It means a lot to have a chance to play in a stadium with so much history and tradition, like the Raiders. Growing up playing and following soccer, I never would have thought that I’d have a chance to play American football in Wembley."
Watson, the Raiders’ second round pick out of Florida State in 2013, was at a loss for words when notified that the Raiders will play in London next year. “I’m speechless right now and I can’t put it into words what this means as it’s incredible, huge for me and Jack,” said Watson, who mentioned that he owned a Raiders jersey while growing up in Manchester. “To think about going back home and playing American football in England is unreal.”
When asked what would he tell youngsters growing up in his community about returning to his roots to suit up in the Silver and Black, Watson remarked, “I would tell them that this just shows to the youth of England and around the world that it doesn’t matter where you are from, the world is not too big for you to realize your dreams.”