Editor's note: Scott Bair is in London with the Raiders. Stay logged on to CSNBayArea.com all week for comprehensive coverage of the Silver and Black.
LONDON – Menelik Watson is in demand this week. The Raiders offensive lineman has a press conference scheduled for Wednesday, when the British media circus will descend on one of the NFL’s only Englishmen.
If a summer press tour promoting Sunday’s game between his Raiders and the Miami Dolphins is any indication, his countrymen will pull him in a thousand directions.
There’s one thing Watson really looks forward to. His daughter Orellana turned six on Saturday, and there’s a belated birthday celebration in the works.
“I’m sad I’m going to miss the actual day, but we’ll celebrate as soon as I can go home and go see her,” Watson told CSN Bay Area last week, in the calm before the media storm. “We’re going to go out to eat and we’re going to find her something nice for her birthday.”
Watson rarely gets the chance. He’s missed far too many birthdays for his taste, stuck across the pond following a dream and a business venture. He couldn’t afford to come home as a collegian bouncing around the country, trying to find a place to stick.
He played basketball at Marist College, then football at Saddleback JC in Orange County, then a year at Florida State before being selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft.
“I’ve been on this road for a long time now,” Watson said. “I’m used to the routine and I’m used to being away from home. You miss it, but a lot of times you have to be cold and not let it weigh on your mood. But the time I do get to spend there is precious, and I value every second.”
That’s why Watson feels like he’s stealing something this week. He was ecstatic when the schedule was released and a London stop was on the agenda. It remains a business trip and his focus will fix on football, but the free time spent with Orellana will be precious.
The offseason schedule keeps Watson stateside most of the time, with roughly a month reserved for Manchester. That’s where Watson grew up, poor but loved in a working class town. There were opportunities to take the wrong path, to make a quick buck with huge, huge risk.
Some friends and family got caught, and ended up paying an unwelcome debt to society. Athletics was his way out of that life, but celebrity wasn’t the ultimate goal. He wanted to do something special, be better than what was expected.
“I come from simple beginnings and I had simple dreams,” Watson said. “I never wished for fame and fortune. All I wanted was a family.
"The area I was growing up in started getting worse and we were struggling. That’s when I decided I was going to do different. I wanted to do something great with my life. I knew I had athletic gifts, but I had to put in time and effort to turn it into something.”
Watson did, and it has brought him to a big stage in his homeland. He isn’t starting as he and the Raiders thought he would this offseason, but he’ll be a player in jumbo packages and will see his share of playing time on Sunday.
He’ll have more than 50 close friends and family in attendance, and plenty of fans rooting for him at Wembley. As always, Orellana is the one he wants to impress.
“This is a chance for her to see what her dad does, and hopefully she better understands why I’m not there every day,” Watson said. “Hopefully Sunday will be special for her. I know it will be special for me.”