Danny Watkins is an intriguing O-line prospect

Street Talk Danny Watkins is an intriguing O-line prospect

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If Danny Watkins didn’t exist in real life, then Hollywood would have to invent him.

Watkins, you see, is a 26-year-old Baylor offensive lineman from Canada who grew up in Kelowna, British Columbia fighting fires and playing hockey and rugby and rooting for the Vancouver Canucks.

And now the high-character, 6-foot-3, 315-pounder is about to be drafted into the NFL, perhaps as early as the first round later this month.

He’s been invited to Radio City Music Hall to attend the draft, and he’s bringing along five of his firefighter buddies to New York with him.

His back story is intriguing: a trek from British Columbia to a California junior college, where he first started playing football, to Waco, Texas, where he emerged as an All-Big 12 blocker at Baylor and soon to an NFL city near you.

After Watkins graduated from high school, he went to Butte College in Southern California where he enrolled in fire science classes. While he was there, Butte coach Jeff Jordan suggested he try out football.

It was a great fit immediately. His background in hockey and rugby paid dividends in an aggressive, physical sport, earning him a scholarship to Baylor.

"After high school, I started at a fire department, that’s what I wanted to do," Watkins said at the NFL scouting combine. "I did that for four years and after I moved to a school in California to advance my career as a firefighter. I talked to the football coach at Butte and after two years of playing football I enrolled at Baylor for two seasons and things have taken off."

Watkins has conducted a private workout for the Baltimore Ravens. He has also worked out for the St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals and the Chicago Bears.

He has visited the San Diego Chargers and the Washington Redskins, also drawing interest from the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots.

Although Watkins will be quite seasoned for an NFL rookie, he won’t have the normal wear and tear for an offensive lineman since he’s only played four years of football.

"Well, I don’t have arthritis so I feel pretty good," Watkins said with a laugh. "I was one of the first guys out of my physical. I’m a little more mature than the other guys. I don’t think it’s a negative."

Watkins was named first-team All-Big 12 last season, registering 134 knockdown blocks and grading out at 90 percent on coaches’ film as far as carrying out his assignments.

He draws high marks for scouts for his toughness, technique and strength as a drive and pass blocker as well as his personality and leadership qualities.

Watkins excelled at the Senior Bowl, boosting his stock.

He projects to offensive guard in the NFL after playing tackle at Baylor.

"I moved inside at the Senior Bowl and if felt pretty good," Watkins said. "Teams ask where I want to play and I tell them wherever you feel I best help the team."

Unlike most football prospects, Watkins didn’t grow up following football at all other than the CFL.

"I was a true, Canadian hockey kid," Watkins said. "There was a TV show growing up called Hockey Night in Canada, I loved it. That’s what you did growing up."

Playing hockey may have actually helped Watkins in his development as a football player.

"I think a lot of it did, a lot of knee bend," Watkins said. "The way you put your feet in the run game is similar to skating. Obviously moving backwards in hockey was very natural to me and in pass protection. A lot has been able to carry over to my benefit.

"I played hockey and rugby in high school. Those were the sports to play. Never really watched football, I watched the Canucks and that was it."

A career in the NHL was never going to happen, not with Watkins’ size.

"When you’re 270 pounds in the 12th grade, there weren’t many players in the NHL that size," Watkins said. "I always grew up playing competitive sports and there wasn’t a hockey rink within 600 feet at Butte so I figured I’d give it a try."

"Well, I don’t have arthritis so I feel pretty good," Watkins said with a laugh. "I was one of the first guys out of my physical. I’m a little more mature than the other guys. I don’t think it’s a negative."

Neither is his pronounced nasty streak at the line of scrimmage that belies his good-natured personality off the field.

If the NFL doesn’t work out, Watkins could always go back to the firehouse and rejoin the guys.

"I miss the guys," Watkins said. "I get the same satisfaction from working with football, working with the same guys day in and day out."

 

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson

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