City fan Watson set for NFL stardom
- 22 May 2013 12:41
- Posted by @porter_mcfc
The UK’s biggest export to one of America’s most famous sports, Mancunian City fan Menelik Watson talks about his love of the Blues and his unique journey to the top…
Brought up in Longsight, Manchester, Watson grew up dreaming of pulling on the sky blue shirt of City, but insists his unusual route made him more determined to succeed.
He explained: “I used to love football - when I was growing up all I wanted to do was play for City. When I broke my ankle I was devastated. I was 13 years old and told that I shouldn’t play sports again, especially not football. I didn’t know what to do. So it was great that I found basketball and that took me to Spain and America.
“I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened.”
Watson was persuaded to try his hand at American football while at college as a basketball athlete, and it turned out to be a perfect fit. Transferring to Florida State, he started just 12 games at offensive tackle before catching the eye of professional scouts.
“It felt like a great accomplishment to be one of the first British players picked so high, but it’s all about getting down to work. For about five minutes you’re excited but then you understand that it’s a job now,” he said.
“It feels good to be a Raider.”
Now based in California, the 24-year-old’s Manchester roots are never far from the surface. Still the proud owner of a Mancunian accent, Menelik maintains that the biggest influence on his life is his Mum.
“She’s been through hard times and she’s had to raise us all by herself with practically no help,” he remembered. “She made a lot of sacrifices for me and my brothers and the least I could do was be successful and make her proud.
“I do miss Manchester – especially the familiar faces, but you get used to being a nomad. You do miss certain things about it, like the corner shop or the chippy!”
Plus his beloved City, who he has supported through three different divisions, before missing the Blues clinch the Premier League title against QPR last May.
“I didn’t see the game! I had a workout and I remember getting to the training room and all the managers were asking if I’d seen the game, and were saying it was crazy!” Menelik exclaimed.
“I started going nuts, I couldn’t believe it! I was calling my brother and all my friends back home, who are United fans, to rub it in!"
"They were all like, it’s alright we’ll win it next year but I was like it doesn’t matter mate, we’ve won it this year.”
Having gone to college with Micah Richards, the defender is among his favourite players, but he added: “I like Joe Hart - he’s the most consistent. I’m into my defenders, because I used to play defensive midfield and centre back.”
Back in California, Menelik is focusing on kickstarting his own pro career for the Raiders, and despite the media attention is determined not to get too far ahead of himself.
“My aim right now is to learn the playbook, establish myself in this team and do whatever it takes to win. Over here at Oakland we’re taking it one day at a time. If we do what we’re supposed to do, who knows what will happen this season.
“I’m really just focusing on today, and I’ll worry about tomorrow when it gets here.”
Menelik reveals much more about the highs and lows of supporting the Blues in the second part of this interview to be published on Thursday.