ALAMEDA - The Raiders used their second-round pick on Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson.
Watson (6-5, 310) is originally from England and came to America to play basketball at Marist College in 2009. After redshirting, Watson started 13 of 29 games, averaging 4.7 points and 3.3 rebounds and was a team captain.
Watson would give up basketball and transfer to Saddleback Community College where he took up football and started seven of his eight games in 2011. Watson transferred to Florida State for the 2012 season where he as All-ACC honorable mention.
Watson started 12 of 13 games at right tackle for the Seminoles.
Below are some quotes from Watson's conference call with local media:
Q: How much contact had you had with with the Raiders leading up to the draft?
A: I didn't have much contact. I knew Zack Crockett, a former Seminole, and he was excited about me meeting with the Raiders at the combine. It was nice to sit down with them for 15 minutes and that was virtually it. And that's all it was. So it was a big surprise for me, a very happy surprise.
Q: Last year Raiders took Jack Crawford, British import out of Penn State , follow his path?
A: Yeah. I know Jack Crawford . . . we played against each other when we were 15, 16 years old in the English national championship game, and we actually beat them by 25 points. But Jack was one of the top prospects in England, and parts of Europe, at the time, he was really good. When he got drafted last year, text him and congratulate him too.
Q: How go from basketball to football?
A : At the time, when I was playing basketball, things just happened at Marist and things had happened in my life where I needed a change and I was just planning on going back to Europe and get a job. Actually, I didn't know what I was going to do. I was going home with no plan. But before I left, a lot of people were telling me to play football, and I'd seen what happened with Jack Crawford when he went to the states. My friend Matt Williams, who plays football at Cal-Berkeley, he had a similar situation. They all did it from the prep school level, but I was trying to convert from the college level. And I did it, and when I got on the field I just found a love and passion for the physicality of it and just the history of the sport, too.
Q: How does experience playing basketball, soccer and boxing help you developing as a football player?
A: Just, footwork, the soccer, the footwork, being able to do things with your feet that just become second-nature, the passing, and 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 the boxing, just my hands, being able to strike, being disciplined, knowing when to strike. Knowing in football you've got a short window, and if you do strike and move your hands at the wrong time, the defender's going to use it to his ability.
Q: When first starting playing football, find the game a bit baffling?
A: You know, I found it baffling because I didn't understand a thing that was going on. I remember in our first practice, we were in a pass play and I didn't know you were supposed to 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 ... down there at Saddleback (the team) was watching film (with the coach), and he was like, `Son, you can't do that.' It's a pass play and he was like, `Oh, my God, what am I working with.' But then I starting learning what was pass and run, and once I did that it was fairly easy.
Q: Why offensive tackle, a coaches decision, someone leave you there?
A: Well, I went out there, I went out for defense and I had good day on defense, but I wasn't really sure if it was the right fit, and Kyle Long, you know, son of Howie, he was there with me at the time, and as we were walking up the field he told me that, I should change my jersey and come to offense, c'mon, you're going to play offensive line. So I went out there and they were like, we like you at tackle. So obviously, Kyle played left tackle so I went over to the right side and it was really comfortable and really easy, just pass setting on the ends and being able to naturally set angles and have the feet keep up with the quick guys.
Q: How long did it take for football to become second nature for you?
A: was doing well, but a lot of times I didn't really understand like the assignment-type things. So I went out there, and go half-speed, but once I got I would say like 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 him in the face or run him off the field or block him and stuff.' So after that, everything just started speeding up after that."
Q: Have you played on the left side?
A: No, I've done a few things on the left side. Saddleback used to do a lot of heavy sets where I'd go over, outside the left tackle and run some plays out there. And this whole offseason I've been working with some coaches, working out of a left-side stance and stuff like that. I mean, I'm ready to do whatever. I think there's no limit to where I can play or what I can do. I'm sure once I've got two or 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 handle myself over there.
Q: At what point did you think you had a shot at the NFL?
A: 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 the draft was just basically explaining who I am and where I'm from. I said in that letter, I wrote that with the chance, I know I can play at the highest level, in the NFL. I just knew that with the right coaching and the right situation, and obviously disciplined enough to go out there and put in the extra time, I knew that it was possible."
Q: Consider yourself a raw player?
A: No, I don't consider myself raw. There's been a lot of 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 way than the traditional. Obviously there's still a lot of techniques I need to learn. But the great thing about football is that, 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 you can learn to your advantage. But I definitely do know there's a lot of technical things I need to polish up, per se, not necessarily consider it being raw."
Q: Did you ever talk to Howie Long about the Raiders?
A: 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 and I know the game has changed from when he was playing and I've seen a few of his highlights but he said he loved it. He said he loved. He just told me about the fans. The funny thing is when I got the call from you guys, when I was a kid I knew nothing about American football but I had a Oakland Raiders jersey for some reason and I don't know where it came from or how we got it. I think it was my older brother's but I don't know how he got it. I always used to wear this Oakland Raiders jersey so it's real strange that I was drafted by them.
Q: Which number was that jersey?
A: I'm not sure. I can find out. It's still back home too, it's in my wardrobe back in England.
Q: Did you even know what the jersey referred to?
A: I had no clue. I had no clue. I kind of heard of the NFL, never watched it. It never was really televised but I'd heard of it. I knew it was a football league but I used to think it was similar to rugby. And English people would say yeah it's like rugby but they stop every minute. That was my impression.
Q: Was that something you just wanted to try...wanted to be likeLennox Lewis?
A: Well my coach from always wanted me to get in the boxing ring because he always saw the force I used to dunk the basketball with. And I did find some interest but I'm not really to keen on participating in indivualistic sports. That's why I kind of love the offensive line because we're a unit. If one messes up we all mess up. And if we all do well, we all celebrate together. No one really gives us the love or puts us in the papers or stuff like that. But we know what we did, we know what we did right and that's the type of person I am. I'm a big team sport guy.