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Danny Watkins: My New Favorite Football Player

The first round of the NFL Draft is in the books. I watched almost every second of the action. Much of it went as expected (Cam Newton going No. 1 to the Carolina Panthers), but there were plenty of surprises (the Tennessee Titans taking Jake Locker No. 8 overall). There were even a few moments that blew me away, especially when the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Danny Watkins.

I love sports. That’s what I get paid to do. I like to think I know what’s going on at all times, but that wasn’t the case when I heard Watkins’ named called as the 23rd pick in the draft. Radio City Music Hall burst into cheers. ESPN quickly cutaway to a group of uniformed guys going crazy in the stands. I watched in awe over the next eight minutes or so until the next pick was announced. I was completely blown away by this guy’s story, so here it is…

Watkins grew up playing hockey (he has two fake front teeth to show for it) and rugby in Kelowna, British Columbia. He didn’t even step on a football field until he was 22-years-old. That’s because he worked as a part-time firefighter in his hometown for four years. He decided to attend Butte College in California for it’s fire academy, but was introduced to the gridiron while he was there.

After playing for two years at Butte, Watkins was recruited by Baylor University. The big guy (he’s 6’3″ and 310 pounds) had huge shoes to fill, taking over for departed All-American and first round pick Jason Smith. Even with his lack of experience, Watkins started all 25 games of his career with the Bears. He quickly caught the attention of scouts, starting in the Senior Bowl and getting invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.

The uniformed guys who went crazy when Watkins was picked were his old firefighting friends from Kelowna. He invited them to share the big day with him in New York City. The posse even took time to visit a fire station in the Big Apple. After the visit, Watkins invited the New York firemen to attend the draft as well. It wasn’t so he could get a bigger ovation when he was selected; it’s because he respects what these men and women do for us every day. He knows what it’s like…he’s part of the fraternity.

The story doesn’t end there. At 26-years-old (he’ll be 27 before the season starts), Watkins is the oldest player in the draft. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him. He looks like any other baby-faced kid in the draft. In fact, he probably looks younger than most of the guys selected with him in the first round (Mark Ingram is only 21, but he looks like he’s 30).

I usually tune out the draft when an offensive lineman is picked (boooorrrring!), but that wasn’t the case with Watkins. He has an incredible story (there’s enough to make a movie out of this guy), a ton of class, and from his post-selection interview, he seems like an all-around awesome dude. That’s enough for me to declare Danny Watkins as my new favorite football player. You’ll hear me rooting for him every Sunday.

Was there a moment you really enjoyed during the NFL Draft? What do you think of Watkins’ story? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below, connect with me on Twitter and/or Facebook, or email me at tim@timlewissports.com.

The second and third rounds of the draft are today, while the fourth-seventh rounds are tomorrow. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for any other cool stories. Let me know if you hear anything that knocks your socks off.

Have an awesome day!

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