Eagles Notebook: Eagles' draft pick Watkins 'really excited' to be in Philly

First-round pick Danny Watkins meets with Deputy Chief Joe McGraw during visit to Engine 49.
First-round pick Danny Watkins meets with Deputy Chief Joe McGraw during visit to Engine 49. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff photographer)
Posted: April 30, 2011

SINCE A TEMPORARY stay was granted last night to the injunction lifting the NFL lockout, it isn't clear when Danny Watkins will make it back to Philadelphia. But during the brief window of normalized football relations yesterday, the Eagles' first-round draft pick was eager to make his mark.

When he met Michael Vick yesterday at NovaCare, "we talked about getting some work done," said Watkins, a 6-3, 310-pound guard, who pledged to "bring my work boots and hard hat and come in and be working, trying to to come in and contribute right away."

Watkins had never been to the East Coast before this week, but someone came up with the idea of bringing the former West Kelowna, British Columbia, firefighter to New York with some of his old firefighter buddies, to meet with some FDNY guys and tour Ground Zero. So they did that, and Watkins was on hand at Radio City Music Hall when the Eagles called Thursday night with the news they were drafting him 23rd overall.

A limo ride down to Philly followed yesterday, along with a tour of Engine 49 at 13th and Shunk and a confab with Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, before Watkins met with reporters at NovaCare.

"I can't even describe how excited I am. I'm pretty thrilled," Watkins said. "Today we had the opportunity to go and meet some of the members from the Philadelphia Fire Department, and it was exactly the same as in New York, they embraced you with open arms, and it was like you knew the guys 10, 20 years. No matter where you go you're going to meet a brother fireman somewhere. Being able to travel through the city today and just meet some of the fan base, I'm really excited to be here. It's a beautiful city."

Watkins was traveling with his father, who has taken time off from his job running a road grader to revel in his son's wild adventure. Todd Watkins, pride straining his sturdy, blue suspenders, quipped that when Danny told him he was playing football at Butte Junior College in California 4 years ago, Todd's first thought was that this might be another diversion to lighten his wallet.

"I was sort of a little cynical about it for a while," he acknowledged. And Todd Watkins has spent some money, traveling to games here and there and then buying a Sirius satellite radio for the grader, he said, so he could listen to Baylor games while working on weekends. But now his son is in line for something like the 5-year, $14.75 million contract offensive tackle Brian Bulaga got last year from the Packers after being drafted 23rd overall.

Todd Watkins - who actually played a little football growing up, unlike his son - was asked about Danny's youth hockey career. Size and strength were a double-edged sword, he said.

"When he was playing hockey, you could tell he was a tough boy," Watkins said. "As he got bigger, once his feet grew and his body grew, he would check somebody and the whistle always goes 'tweep.' You know, he's roughing the player. So then he would check them and scoop them in his two arms and he'd lay them down on the ice or take them over to the bench and lay them in front of the bench, and then, 'tweep,' the whistle would still blow. There was no way he could check anybody. The refs would be watching for too much roughing in the young kid game. You could tell he was super powerful on skates. Always been strong."

Todd Watkins and his son said they think feel hockey also contributed to Danny's graceful lateral movement. Like a hockey defenseman, he can back up, then shift forward and challenge an attacker. But like a lot of hockey players, he seems to have a sunny, friendly demeanor. Where is the mean streak Eagles coach Andy Reid spoke of Thursday night?

Todd said Danny is "like the guard dog at home - he plays with the kids, and then afterwards he goes outside in the yard, and it gets dark out, and 'Grrrrrrr.' He ain't nice no more."

Danny said he had a lot to learn when he first suited up for Butte, which counts Larry Allen and Aaron Rodgers among its alumni. A teammate mentioned Rodgers to him, he said, and Watkins reckoned he must have been a nice guy, whoever he was. Also, "there was no 5-minute penalty for getting into a fight," he discovered.

Watkins, whose agent is former Eagles offensive lineman Joe Panos, said he plans to head back to Waco, Texas, and see what happens with the lockout. The Eagles had just planned their first minicamp for 2 weeks from now, when it seemed the lifting of the lockout would stick. Then last night, the owners got a temporary stay, as the appellate court considered a more lasting stay of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's injunction against the lockout. The league said it had not decided whether to proceed with reopening; a final stay decision is expected Tuesday.

For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

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