Menelik Watson completes first rookie camp as Oakland Raider

Manchester’s Menelik Watson, the highest-drafted British player in league history, took his first steps as an NFL player when he participated in the Oakland Raiders’ rookie camp.

Watson was drafted by the Raiders with the tenth pick in the second round of the recent NFL draft (42nd overall) despite playing only two years of college football and only one year at a major college, where he was starting right tackle for Florida State.

Watson, who will wear his college number, 71, for the Raiders, had this to say after his first taste of the NFL:

On how he avoids being overwhelmed with the influx of information:

“Just really focus on what I’ve got to do; understanding that it’s a job now. It’s the same way I approached Florida State and the same way I approached Saddleback [Junior College]. I understand what I have to do. Taking my role very seriously allows me to block out the other things that are around and just focus on what’s the task at hand.”

On whether it’s helpful that he’s gone through this quick progression before:

“I almost call it a crash course. It’s more like a crash course what I’ve gone through before. Obviously I’m in the pros now and I want to be here to stay. So, a lot of times I learn on the fly but now I can really sit down and get to the finer details and understand what’s going on around me, not just what I have to do.”

On if it is a relief that once practice is over, he doesn’t have to go to class:

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll go back in for meetings and watch [film], go over it and make our assessments, what we did wrong, what we did right. Then, obviously, install a little bit and get ready for tomorrow, too. It definitely helps that there’s no class, but I’m enjoying it. This is where I’ve always wanted to be, so there are no complaints where I am.”

On meeting fellow Brit, 49ers DE Lawrence Okoye, the former GB Olympic discus thrower [on the plane to San Francisco]:

“Yeah. It was by surprise actually. We were just at the airport and I saw him. He was at the gate. We just sat and talked and, obviously, I don’t have much experience but he’s got less than me. So giving a little bit of advice about football and my experience, what he should expect. He’s more than ready. I can tell by talking to him, he’s ready just to attack it. I’m going to be watching close.”

On whether that was the first time they have ever met:

“Yeah, first time we’ve ever met. It was cool, he’s a cool guy. Hopefully he gets some off time and I’m going to meet up and go out to eat or something like that and just talk some more.”

On if he listened to the experts’ opinions during the draft:

“I paid attention to what coaches were telling me in the draft process. Obviously, what my coach, [Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett], was telling me. From a physical standpoint, I was able to do it, but obviously the words were would I be able to pick up the game quick, especially the NFL playbook, how deep it is and stuff like that. But it’s all a commitment, as long as I was able to make that commitment, it was always an option and a positive to move forward to.”

On if it is his goal to start from day one:

“I come in to do my job. I’m not worried about rotations; I don’t worry about where I stand in the depth chart. The main thing is to come in and do my job and if I come in and do that and focus on that and that alone, then who knows what the outcome could be.”

On his impressions of offensive line coach Tony Sparano:

“Perfectionist. Very similar to Coach Trickett; really detailed oriented. We have to get after it on the practice field. It’s all about treating everyone like professionals and knowing we’ve got a job to do. If we don’t do our job someone is going to get hurt. So it’s very important that he stresses that all the time.”

On whether he feels like his boxing training helps with football:

“Everything I’ve done playing soccer, playing basketball, it all kind of translates, especially on offensive line. When you’re on the front line, it’s pretty much hand-to-hand combat so you’ve got to be able to know when to throw your hands and not reach, go near the shoulder and things like that, so it definitely helped.”