MENELIK WATSONOffensive TackleFlorida State University Seminoles6:05.1-310Manchester, Great Britain Saddeleback Community College Marist College (Basketball)Canarias Basketball Academy, Spain Burnage School
One of the most gifted athletes in the 2013 Draft, the former basketball player from Great Britain hopes that his "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 – only he did not think it would be on the gridiron.
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. 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 a hotbed for producing players that could one day challenge stars in the National Basketball League. At 6-foot-7, Watson cut an imposing figure but was never able to get on the radar of local scouts.
Watson embarked on a sports odyssey 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.
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 neighborhoods in England."
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..
He was redshirted in his freshman season and the challenges of life with a new team in a new country were difficult. 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.
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 13 of the 29 games he appeared in that season, averaging 16 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 NBA.
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. 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 found a home and was a quick study and a prized student for Saddleback College head coach Mark McElroy. McElroy had compiled an overall record of 99-44 before Watson arrived for the 2011 season. He would serve as the foundation for Watson's football knowledge.
McElroy led Saddleback to bowl games for 11-straight seasons (2001-11). He was named the Region IV coach-of-the- year in 2004 and 2006, and has had 10 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 in13 seasons.
Watson would be MeElroy's latest discovery undergoing a crash course in offensive-line play. He played in eight games on the 11-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.
Watson initially arrived on campus in time for Saddleback's first two-a-day session and requested a spot on the defensive line. During his 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 took steps forward. McElroy's hope was to have his new tackle ready by midseason. As it turned out, Watson's learning curve required even less time. "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.
Watson enrolled at Florida State in January, 2012, participating in spring drills. He would go on to start 12 of the 13 games he appeared in. For an offense that struggled prior to Watson's 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 10th in the nation in scoring (39.29 ppg). Watson earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference recognition for his efforts while delivering 12 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.
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 19 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-ACC second-team choice by The NFL Draft Report, adding All-ACC honorable mention from the league's coaches and media…Appeared in 13 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 12 touchdown-resulting blocks… Despite just playing 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 10 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 10 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.
Started 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 13 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 11 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.
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.