Florida State’s right tackle Menelik Watson has a very tough decision on his hands. He can either turn pro, after less than a year in Tallahassee, and fulfill his dream of bettering the lives of those close to him. Or stay in Tallahassee, a place he fell in love with from the start, play out his senior season, and work to better his draft status for the 2014 NFL draft.
It’s rare to see a case like Watson’s, but then again, nothing about his life journey can be perceived as normal…
Most of you probably know his back story and how he got to FSU, but for those who don’t, here’s a brief run down.
Watson is one of seven children born and raised by a single mother in a not-so-nice part of Britain. These seven children lived extremely rough lives for the majority of their childhood. As a result, a few of Watson’s brothers turned to crime at an early age and have spent much of their time in prison since.
Then in 2006, Watson was seen playing basketball for his high school team when the coach of a newly founded prep school team just happened to be on hand. The 6-4, 300 pound Watson caught his eye with his size and quick feet.
Not long after, Watson was the captain of the first-ever Canarias Academy basketball team. Then, during a US tour in his second season with the team, Watson was offered a scholarship to play basketball at Marist, which he nearly accepted on the spot.
At that point Watson was so grateful for being rescued by his coach at the academy, Rob Orellana, that when he and his girlfriend had their daughter he named her Orellana. Orellana is now close to four years old.
But his career at Marist did not go as well as he hoped and the Red Foxes went 6-27 in the 2010 season.
Being from Britain, Watson didn’t have many friends at Marist other than a few of his teammates. His closest friend on the team, Rob Johnson, was who he spent the majority of his time with since coming to the US.
Johnson grew up in Atlanta and just happened to be a Florida State fan growing up, also his younger brother Reggie was attending FSU at the time. In September of 2010, Rob decided to bring Watson with him on a trip to Tallahassee to celebrate his birthday with his brother and attend an FSU football game.
At the time Watson couldn’t tell you a single rule about the game, but the seed was planted. “That trip is when I fell in love with the place,” Watson said.
Just a few months later Watson called coach Orellana and told him that he wasn’t going back to Marist. After giving boxing a try for a few months, Orellana encouraged him to pursue the game of football and that’s when Watson showed up without notice to Saddleback Community College who seemingly offered him on the spot.
Watson had to be first be taught simple fundamentals that is common knowledge to many 12-year olds. But Watson proved to be a fast learner and was named the starter in week four. By the end of the season Watson was second-team all conference with offers from all over.
With just eight games under his belt, Watson decided to attend Florida State where he sent his letter of intent last spring.
Watson says the main reason he chose FSU was because of the talent he would be facing in practice and knew it would give him a big test.
“That’s the biggest decision to come here because I knew every day in practice ‘I’m going to get better’,” Watson said in the locker room after the Orange Bowl. “Either I’m going to get my ass kicked or I’m going to get better. Every time I stepped out in practice, practice is like a game. We go at it, we don’t take it easy on each other.”
Watson also said that he wasn’t sure he would be able to handle it when he first came to FSU, but he was going to give it everything he had.
“When I made the decision to switch, I said to myself I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out,” he said. “If I couldn’t handle it, I’d tip my hat, say thank you and roll on. But it’s all mental really. If you tell yourself you can do it, you can do it.”
That game-like practice against some of the best defensive ends in the country, along with a full season under his belt, has presented Watson with a tough decision to make.
“I’ve got to speak to my family, keep speaking to coaches. I want to take these next couple of days to find out what’s going on, and get into details about stuff and make a decision.”
Like I have reported all along, I happen to know someone extremely close with Watson and all signs have pointed towards him declaring for the draft. In the end, he has to make the decision based on what’s best for him and his family.