American Football: Menelik Watson is highest Brit in NFL draft


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The Independent Online

Menelik Watson from Manchester has been selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. His position as the 42nd player chosen overall is the highest ever achieved by a born-and-bred British player.

The 24-year-old from Longsight, who was the 10th player chosen in the second round, had not played a single down of American football until 18 months ago, when he suited up at Saddleback College in California. Watson came to the scouts' attention during the 2012 college season after transferring to play for the major power Florida State University, where he started 12 games at offensive tackle.

He had previously travelled to the US to play basketball at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York before deciding to have a go at American football.

Watson joins Londoner Jack Crawford, who was drafted by the Raiders in the fifth round in 2012. After his selection by the AFC West team, Watson gave his first media interview as a Raider:

"When I was a kid I knew nothing about American football but I had an Oakland Raiders jersey for some reason and I don't know where it came from," he said after hearing the news. "I think it's my older brother's and I don't know how he got it but I used to wear the Oakland Raiders' jersey so it's really strange that I'm getting drafted for them. I think it's in my wardrobe back home in England."

Manti Te'o, the linebacker who was at the centre of a bizarre hoax involving a fake girlfriend, was drafted by the San Diego Chargers on Friday, a day after being overlooked in the first round of NFL selections. Te'o became a figure of ridicule after it was revealed he was duped into an internet romance with a girl he never met.

"I did expect to go in the first round. But things happened and all it did was give me more motivation to get better," he said. "I don't know if I have something to prove but it definitely puts a huge fire under my butt to just be better."

Two different clubs said they passed on Te'o in the first round partly because of off-field issues.