NFL news: Manchester's Menelik Watson hoping to inspire others with story
Last Updated: 16/06/13 11:59am
Menelik Watson in training with the Oakland Raiders
Menelik Watson hopes the influx of British NFL stars in California can help inspire others to follow suit as he sets his sights on making the Oakland Raiders team.
The right tackle from Manchester was a second-round pick in last month's draft as he joined London-born defensive end Jack Crawford - a former schoolmate of Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe - at the Oakland Raiders.
And with discus Olympian Lawrence Okoye signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Francisco 49ers, Watson's broad Manchester accent has not turned heads as much as it might have.
"Jack Crawford's here so I guess he eased them into it last year," Watson said. "One guy came over and said 'Where are you from?' and 'You just sounded weird', but they're pretty cool. I guess at this level they've seen it all, heard it all, I guess an English guy's no surprise to them."
Having just finished the first Raiders pre-season mini-camp, Watson now hopes to catch up with Okoye, based around 20 minutes across San Francisco Bay with last season's Super Bowl runners-up.
"I called him last week and he was busy, they were just finishing off their OTAs (organised team activities) and we never had chance," he added.
"We've got about two weeks now before we go to (rookie) symposium so hopefully I'll get out with him in the next week or so."
The story of Watson's impoverished upbringing, drinking ketchup sachets from the cafeteria where his mother worked as a cleaner, is already well known, and he already appreciates how far he has come.
"It wasn't a great time in my life," he said. "When I explained the story it was just a thing to let people know where I'm coming from and the things I had to overcome.
"No kid should have to do that but it helps me appreciate where I am today. Being in the NFL, I appreciate it. People joke around, like 'hey, do you want some ketchup on that?', and I smirk sometimes but sometimes it's not funny. They know when they've taken it too far."
The bulk of his first pay packet was sent straight back home, while messages of support and of the interest in his story have flooded the other way.
"I bought myself a car, sent some money back home to my family and that was about it really," he said. "I've set up a Twitter (account) and a lot of my followers are people from back home and it's amazing.
"I spoke to my mum and she's told me about it, it brings me joy to be that type of person and hopefully I can continue to inspire people."