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Eagles Pick Firefighting 26-Year-Old Guard

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Eagles coach Andy Reid speaks that praises of the Birds' first-round pick -- 26-year-old offensive lineman Danny Watkins. (Published Thursday, Apr 28, 2011)

    The Eagles surprised just about everyone Thursday night when they picked a 26-year-old Canadian firefighter with the No. 23-overall pick.

    Ladies and Gentlemen meet guard Danny Watkins out of Baylor.

    The 26-year-old -- that isn’t a typo -- played hockey and rugby growing up in British Columbia, according to FoxSports.com.

    Watkins, a junior college transfer, started all 25 games in two years at Baylor. He spent four years as a firefighter in Kelowna, B.C. before enrolling at Butte (Calif.) Community College, according to the Kansas City Star.

    While at Butte, coaches convinced Watkins to play football and four years later he is an NFL Draft first rounder ahead of bigger names like former Heisman Trophy winning RB Mark Ingram, DE Da'Quan Bowers and CB Jimmy Smith.

    The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Watkins is thrilled to be a first round pick.

    “I’m very excited. This is unreal,” Watkins said about being picked.

    “I’ve lived the life of a working man at a 40-hour a week job. I’m just really excited to get this role.”

    He was cheered heavily by a group of firefighter buddies inside Radio City Music Hall Thursday night.

    Watkins' age is a concern but it looks like the Eagles wanted to sure up the offensive line and Watkins could do just that.

    Draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. spoke about Watkins' raw talent heading into the draft.

    "He's an interesting guy with his size and the versatility he provides," Kiper says. "He's going to continue to get better because they coach you up in the NFL. With the guard group not being particularly strong, that helps him a lot.

    "It wouldn't shock me if he went in the second or third round when all is said and done."

    Well he sure went a lot higher than that Mel. Time will tell if the Eagles reached with this pick or let a star fall into their lap.

    Coach Andy Reid praised Watkins' toughness and blue-collar attitude but also addressed concerns about his age.

    “There’s been a lot of things said about Danny’s age… but we felt Danny was as good a football player as there was in the draft.”

    “I know that it’s not a glamour position but it’s a position that is very crucial in the sport and we wanted to make sure that we maintained a strong offensive line.”

    The draft also had a Philly flair when Temple defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson was picked by the Jets 29th overall.