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Menelik Watson: FSU’s other European player with first-round talent

Menelik Watson

Florida State offensive lineman Menelik Watson runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)


Fans who follow the NFL draft know about Florida State’s Bjoern Werner, the German-born defensive end who is viewed as one of the top defensive players in the draft. But many fans may not realize that there’s another European Seminole who could end up going in the first round.

Menelik Watson, a 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive lineman from Manchester, England, only played one year at Florida State and originally came to the United States to play basketball at Marist College. But while Watson still has plenty to learn about American football, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock says Watson is such a natural left tackle that calling him a first-round talent isn’t a stretch.

“As you might expect for a kid from England who hasn’t played much football . . . he’s very raw,” Mayock said. “What great skill set he has. He’s got a first-round left tackle skill set. He’s got really good feet, long arms, he’s a natural pass protection guy.”

Watson told FOX Sports Florida in January that it took him a while to get what American football was all about, but once he gave it a try, he realized that offensive line play was perfectly suited for his athletic talents.

“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. . . . When I made the decision to switch over, I said, ‘I’m going to give it everything I’ve got,’ If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. If I came here and I couldn’t handle it, I tip my hat and say thank you and roll on. It’s all mental, really. If you tell yourself you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it. First day, it was faster and stuff, but you have to adjust.”

Watson will have more big adjustments ahead of him in the NFL. But there aren’t many more talented linemen in this year’s draft.