INDIANAPOLIS -- We hear these stories every year here at the NFL Scouting Combine, players overcoming long odds to even get the chance to play football for a living and all the trappings that come with it.
But the story of Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson might top them all.
And that's saying something.
What's even more amazing is that Watson, with only one year of big-time college football on his resume, might just parlay his strange and winding odyssey into being a top-10 pick.
"He's moving that way," one AFC personnel director said. "It's possible. He's a special athlete for a guy his size."
At just over 6-foot-5 and weighing 310 pounds, Watson seemed like every other prospect here as he sat down at a table to talk to a handful of media members this week. Then he opened his mouth. Out came a thick British accent that seemed odd coming from a football player, rather than a futbol player.
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That's because Watson hails from a tough upbringing in Manchester, England, and played only basketball, soccer and rugby growing up. He didn't try football until after a failed college basketball career at Marist College and a try at boxing -- although he never had a fight.
"I discovered football on television," Watson said. "I was 23, and I had never played football. I didn't know about football. I didn't even know how to put on pads, but I knew I would be good. It was just my mindset. It's been a lot of fun. I love to study. I love to try and learn new things."
He played for the first time at Saddleback Junior College in California, initially thinking he would play defense. But Kyle Long, the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and brother of Rams defensive end Chris Long, was also an offensive tackle on that team. He pulled him to the other side of the ball, and they formed a massive tackle tandem. Kyle Long is also in this draft after going to Oregon.
Watson opened the season on the bench, played a handful of plays in the third game, and then went on to start the rest of that season. He had college scouts fighting over him by the end of it.
After a year at Saddleback, he went to Florida State to play in 2012 before he decided to enter the April NFL Draft as a junior.
Watson ran the 40-yard dash in 5.22 Sunday, which isn't great, but he is plenty athletic on the tape. What's more, he's a perfectionist. He said he watches tape at all hours. He hates to fail.
"I love to study, I love to learn new things," Watson said. "It's dedication. I haven't been to a club or a bar in two years. I've been dedicated to football 100 percent. That's part of the reason I decided to come out, too. So I could dedicate every single minute of every day to football."
Surprisingly, he said it wasn't for the money. I say surprisingly because of his upbringing. He was raised in a tough area and had little money. His mother was a single parent who had four kids.
Sports kept Watson away from the trouble, he said. But there was little he could do to stave off the hunger at times.
One time, he was so hungry he drank ketchup. Yes, drank it.
"My Mom used to work as much as she could," Watson said. "She raised four kids by herself. One time she was cleaning this building and we were hungry. I was starving. We went in this cafeteria area, and the only thing on the table was ketchup. It's not like I could go to my mom and ask for a couple of pounds to get something to eat. So being hungry, I just started drinking ketchup. I don't really like ketchup no more."
So what do you do when you have a burger?
"A little mayonnaise, try and keep it light to watch my weight," he said laughing.
At 310 pounds, he is 40 pounds over his playing weight from when he was a backup forward at Marist. And he has the frame to put on another 20 pounds of good weight. He still looks a little like a basketball player.
It's those basketball feet that make the scouts swoon. And the boxing work has also helped his footwork. It's that ability to move that could lead him being moved to the left tackle spot in the NFL, which I think would be his more natural position.
He allowed one sack last season playing right tackle, which helped earn him the chance to be a first-round pick with just 20 football games of experience on his resume. That's 20 of any kind -- not counting his playing Madden football, which was his introduction to the game.
To be in this position with his resume is incredible. It's hard not to root for this kid. He seems to have a passion for the game. He is entertaining. He is said to be coachable. And he seems to want to be the best.
His odyssey is a as strange as they come. From England to college basketball player to boxer to junior college to one year of big-time football and he could be a high first-round pick.
One word: amazing.