TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Menelik Watson's multi-sport odyssey has taken around the globe the past five years. And now his next step appears to be the NFL.
Florida State's junior right tackle has just 20 games of football experience, but Watson has indicated to friends that he will opt to leave school early for the NFL draft.
His path to the NFL is among the most unlikely. Watson grew up playing basketball in Manchester, England, before later moving to Spain to play for a youth team. And after two years of basketball at Marist, he took up football for the first time at a junior college in California before becoming a sought-after recruit who chose Florida State.
He allowed just one sack in 12 games for the Seminoles in 2012, helping protect quarterback EJ Manuel and paving the way for an offense that accumulated more than 6,500 total yards.
Watson never saw himself as a football player, but he could soon be playing professionally. He was a rugby fan, although he never had enough money to play the sport, and a basketball player who was 6-foot-6 and more than 300 pounds.
He landed in the U.S. at Marist and often took a break from studying and playing basketball to watch the football team.
"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 after Florida State's win over Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. "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."