The Raiders 2013 second-round draft pick, T Menelik Watson, has only been playing football for two years. The England-native started his athletic career as a basketball player. Watson originally came to the United States to play basketball. "Playing basketball in England took me to the Canary Islands to the Canary Islands Basketball Academy," explained Watson. "From there, schools used to come over and give guys scholarships. They'd come over and I actually got a couple offers. I chose Marist College in New York."
Watson wasn't happy with his experience at Marist, so he transferred to Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo, Calif. It was his first time playing football. "I did a year there, graduated after a year and was eligible to move to a four-year school," said Watson. "I had a choice between a few different schools, but decided on Florida State. Got to Florida State; it was a great. I had a great time, great coaching, great team. I had a fantastic year and just decided that obviously with my age and where I am in my life, it's time to make it professional so I put my name in for the draft."
The 6'5", 315-pound offensive lineman entered the draft at the age of 24, and was selected with the 42nd overall pick. Watson didn't even hear his name called on draft day; in fact, he didn't realize the second day of the draft had started. "I actually was out getting a sandwich," said Watson. "I had worked out in the morning and me and one of the guys went. My phone was turned off and my battery was dead. I charged my phone at this restaurant we were eating at and then ran across the street to a CVS to put money back on the phone. We were in the car about five minutes later driving and I got a call from a 510 number. It's Reggie and Coach Allen and they're just telling me they're on the board. I didn't even know the draft had really started again, so I was just happy that the whole nightmare was over with and it's time to get to work."
Watson now knew he would be donning the Silver and Black. It would not be the first time, however; Watson owned a Raiders jersey as a child back in the U.K. "I didn't know much about the Raiders; I didn't know much about NFL football, but I did have a Raiders jersey when I was kid," said Watson. "So I did know what the Raiders looked like, so obviously when I came to America, I started watching football, and I actually met Howie Long. I played with his son in junior college. We're really good friends now and then I got to learn a bit about the Raiders obviously before I got to Florida State. I know about the history, about the style of play, and I know about the fans too. I saw it [Tuesday]. [Tuesday] the guys were out here all day, it was amazing. I've never seen something like that before."
Watson is looking forward to putting on the jersey for Raider Nation on Sundays, but for now he is enjoying his practice jersey at Raiders headquarters. "It felt good. It felt good to be back to football," said Watson. "Obviously, for a guy like me who hasn't played as long as most guys, some of these guys have been putting on jerseys for about 10 years, and I've been putting it on for two. It was weird, but it was like a new beginning though. It felt great at the same time that I'm about to embark on this journey that I want to last for a long time. I felt a sense of, not arrival, but a sense of I'm here and it's time to knuckle down and tune in again."
The rookie mini-camp and the first week of Organized Team Activities were productive for Watson. "The rookie mini-camp was hectic just in terms of everything that was being installed, but also the fact that you're trying to know your position," said Watson. "There's a lot of guys coming from different schools so calls weren't getting out in time, so it was really hard to process everything when you're really trying to focus on what you've got to do. But once the vets get in, I mean, the ball gets rolling really fast and you get a lot more comfortable in the sense that the guy beside you, you don't have to worry about making the general call because he knows what he's doing and the guy next to him knows what he's doing and they're all just going to point you in the right direction. And then you can really 100 percent focus on what you've got to do."
The rookie tackle is taking advantage of the veterans' knowledge during OTAs. "The guys, the vets, are great," said Watson. "They're all great guys. They help you, give you pointers. I was talking to Jared [Veldheer] before practice about just pass setting and stuff like that and they just want you to get better. I think that would be a general concern for most rookies coming in is how the vets are going to treat them. It's unbelievable how much they're helping."
Watson is also learning a great deal from assistant head coach/offensive line Tony Sparano. "Coach, he's a perfectionist, which is great, because he demands you to know what you've got to do and understand that you've got to know what you've got to do, otherwise someone's going to hurt," explained Watson. "This is serious business now. But he's doing a great job and he's spending extra time with us, with us rookies, and making sure we know what we've got to do."
As Watson becomes more comfortable on the football field and in a Raiders uniform, he's ready for Raider Nation to get to know him. "I'm very humble and very quiet," said Watson. "I like to just relax and chill out. But game day, I'm a little crazy. [Raider Nation] gets to see that and enjoy that. Most of the time, I like to just chill out, real low key. I also love to be around people, just good people in general. I feed off of positive energy. I love to get out in the community and get to meet some of the fans too because they've showed me a lot of love since I've been drafted. I definitely want to get out and meet some of those guys."
Raider Nation – make sure to follow Watson on Twitter @MenelikWatson71