Oakland Raiders British offensive tackle Menelik Watson dreamed of playing at Wembley Stadium as a soccer-mad child growing up in Manchester.
And the 25-year-old will finally realise that ambition on September 28 when the Silver and Black take on the Miami Dolphins in NFL Week 4.
Speaking to me during a recent promotional tour of Wembley Stadium, Watson said: “It’s big. Visiting the stadium for the first time has been incredible and it’s going to be amazing on gameday.
“It’s hard to believe. I always dreamed of lifting the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium but that dream was gone when I stopped playing football at the age of 13 due to an ankle injury. Then my dream was to play in the NBA. I never thought in a million years I would have the chance to come back to Wembley Stadium and play a pro sport in front of a home crowd. It’s going to be a special moment for me.”
Watson is currently battling to open the 2014 season as the starting right tackle in Oakland. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound has grown in confidence in his second year in the NFL after a rookie campaign that was slowed by injuries.
And now Watson is keen to help the NFL grow overseas by playing the Dolphins in London, insisting: “I think we should have an NFL franchise in London. American football is so unique that it needs to be expanded globally. To a lot of people, it can seem complicated but football is a chess match or it’s like a battlefield. There is an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator and it’s my tricks against your tricks – can you stop me and do you know what we’re doing? Can you guess? If you guess wrong, it’s a touchdown. It’s a great game and the world needs to see more of it.”
If an in London becomes a reality in the coming years, would the Brit currently doing his country proud in the United States consider a return to these shores?
“It would be special to come home and be here representing England every day,” Watson concludes. “But right now, I’m trying to bring it for the Silver and Black.”
Watch the full Menelik Watson interview on Sky Sports when the new season kicks off in September. You can also read his interview in full in the gameday magazine being sold at Wembley Stadium next month.
Categories: British players in the NFL