Oakland Raiders offensive tackle Menelik Watson believes there is a possibility for a UK franchise in the NFL.
The 25-year-old from Manchester is back in his home nation this weekend as the Raiders host the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium and spoke about the possibility of a permanent side on this side of this Atlantic.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of Sunday’s NFL International Series, Watson said:
“Yeah, I think it’s a possibility. I shot an e-mail to Roger Goodell about it, I got to speak to him a little bit and when I was getting drafted in New York.”
“I think football is a sport that needs to go global and I think it can and I think it has that opportunity to, so why not start here.”
Real potential in the UK
The 2013 second round draft pick believes that with more exposure to children in Great Britain, the sport could really take off.
He said: “I think more exposure, a couple more camps, I’m actually in the works of trying to get something organised for the off season where I can come back and run a couple of camps and just introduce the kids over here to some of the stuff.”
“You know in Manchester and London, to help the kids get their feet wet, get a little introduction to it and really start to integrate over here.”
The game between the Raiders and Dolphins is the first of three games in the International Series as NFL popularity continues to grow.
Next month Atlanta Falcons will host Detroit Lions before Jacksonville Jaguars host Dallas Cowboys in November.
Since it’s introduction in 2007 the series at Wembley has continued to expand, 2013 was the first year for a double-header and that was instantly increased to three games for this calendar year as fans continue to pack out the Stadium.
With British players such as Watson and Lawrence Okoye, for San Francisco 49ers, barriers are beginning to fall and a route into the NFL is now a realistic option for young British football fans.
Dream come true
It is many people’s dream to run out on the famous turf at Wembley Stadium and Watson, a former Florida State player, is living out one of his childhood dreams, just not in the way he may have expected.
The 6’5” Raider, who played five games in his rookie season, said: “As a kid we all had dreams of playing in the premier league and playing in the FA Cup at Wembley was always something you dreamed of as a child.”
“But American football wise no (I didn't expect to play at Wembley), not even after I got drafted. I watched the Steelers out here last year vs. Minnesota but its something I didn’t really think about until the schedule came out, it’s like a dream really.”
With Watson not currently a starter in the Raiders roster, he is expected to make an appearance off the bench and the reception for the number 71 in-front of 80,000 fans in his home nation is sure to be amazing.