1. ITV Report

Menelik Watson begins dream NFL move in California

Menelik Watson is rising to the professional ranks after a standout year in the college league with Florida State University. Photo: YouTube/flstateseminoles

Menelik Watson, who has emerged as an unlikely new British star in American football, has said he is ready to face the "human monsters" in the NFL as he begins his professional career out in California.Barely two years after he first played the sport, the Manchester-born 24-year-old has been snapped up to play for three-time Super Bowl winners the Oakland Raiders.

Watson, who grew up impoverished in the Longsight area of Manchester, will land a minimum rookie salary of £262,000 after being chosen 42nd in the second round of the NFL's annual Draft selection.

Raiders fans flocked to New York's Radio City Music Hall for the annual NFL Draft. Credit: REUTERS/Adam Hunger

The offensive tackle was expected to be among the 32 players assigned to the league's 32 teams in the Draft's first round on Thursday night having starred for Florida State University.

Instead, it was the turn of the Raiders to take him with the tenth pick from the next batch of 32 players in the second round.

But 6ft 5in Watson, who was advised to take up the sport by scouts in 2011, greeted the delayed confirmation of where his pro career would begin with excitement, tweeting:

He later revealed that while he knew nothing about American football as a boy, he grew up wearing a Raiders jersey, which transcended its sport to become a global fashion item.

Watson said he was delighted to be able to don the top as a professional player.

He told Oakland's official website: "It's very exciting. I can't wait to get going. I've got a job, so it's time to get going - get to work."

Asked what had first attracted him to the sport two years ago, he added:

I just saw these big human monsters running around and just scaring each other and I just said 'wow'. I think that's somewhere where I can definitely express my abilities.

Watson had begun his sporting life as a promising footballer until injury halted his dream of playing for his beloved Manchester City.

He has already debuted in US sports in the college basketball leagues before switching to boxing and later American football.

Britain's leading name in the NBA, Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng, was quick to add his own congratulations at Watson's meteoric rise to the NFL.

Two more Britons are hoping to join Watson in the NFL, including Olympic discus thrower Lawrence Okoye, who has never even played American Football before.

The Londoner, who finished 12th in the men's discus final at London 2012, impressed scouts at tryouts in Texas who believe he could adapt his strength, speed and core discus skills to enjoy a career in their sport.

Tom Wort, a 22-year-old who grew up in Crawley, West Sussex, has longer held dreams of joining the NFL.

After moving to the States with his family at 14, he has enjoyed a fine stint in the college football leagues at the University of Oklahoma.

Both men will be hoping to land a deal as the final rounds of the NFL Draft are completed tonight in New York.

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