Talented Florida State junior offensive tackle Menelik Watson has been on quite the journey.
His multi-sport path has been filled with twists and turns, a compelling odyssey that has now brought him to the verge of being drafted by an NFL team. Perhaps even as high as late in the first round or early in the second round.
The 6-foot-6, 320-pound native of Manchester, England is a fairly unlikely NFL prospect. He grew up overseas playing soccer, rugby and basketball.
When he first began playing football at a California junior college, he didn't even know how to put on pads or line up in a three-point stance initially.
"When I was younger, I was really into soccer, but I messed up my ankle playing soccer," said Watson, who has met with Ravens team officials here at the NFL scouting combine and is regarded as a potential target for them with the 32nd overall pick of the first round. "I had a dislocation fracture when I was 12 years old and they told me I shouldn't play sports again, but I love sports."
The 24-year-old played college basketball at Marist before transferring to Saddleback Junior College, where he played football for the first time and teamed up with fellow tackle Kyle Long, the son of Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long.
They formed a formidable wrecking crew for the high-scoring California junior college, catching recruiters' eyes with Watson heading south to Florida State and Long to Oregon.
"It was great. It was a maul-fest," Watson said. "It was fun. Defenses used to hate us. They would get beat down by us. They would quit. I wish I would get a chance to play with Kyle in the NFL because it was a lot of fun."
Austin has only played 20 games of football after growing up mostly playing basketball and then later moving to Spain to play for a youth team.
Austin allowed just one sack in a dozen games for the Seminoles, blocking for quarterback E.J. Manuel as the offense piled up over 6,500 total yards.
"Even when I was young, people used to always tell me, ‘When you go to America, people are going to make you play football,' " Watson said. "And I said, ‘I ain't going to play football. I don't like it.' I was a rugby guy. At Marist, I used to go to the football games there, and I knew I could play the sport. I just needed the right coaching."
Watson chose Florida State over LSU, Oklahoma and Auburn.
"I discovered football on television," Watson said. "I was 23 and I had never played football. I didn't know about football. I didn't even know how to put on pads, but I knew I would be good. It was just my mindset. It's been a lot of fun. I love to study. I love to try and learn new things."
Watson said he had a positive meeting with the Ravens and is open to playing wherever they or any NFL team needs him.
"It was a good talk," Watson said. "I'll play either left tackle or right tackle. Whatever the team needs from me, I'm going to do."
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