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Finding His Calling

Posted Apr 6, 2011

Baylor tackle Danny Watkins thought his future was as a firefighter, but after just four years of football experience, he is set to be one of the first linemen taken in the draft.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Danny Watkins knew exactly what he wanted to do after high school.

In his hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia, Watkins served as a part-time firefighter for four years.

He left Canada for Butte College in California because of the school's firefighting academy, but it was there he found his newest passion -- football.

"I played hockey and rugby in high school -- those were the sports to play," Watkins said. "I never really watched football. I watched the (Vancouver) Canucks and that was it."

After talking with the football coach at Butte, he decided to hit the gridiron for the first time in his life.

Things, as Watkins put it, took off. In two seasons he had made himself a junior college All-American and decided to transfer to Baylor to build on his newfound success.

"I met with (Baylor Head) Coach (Art) Briles and (Broncos center) J.D. Walton and some of the other guys and liked them right away and thought that was the right place for me," he said.

He started all 25 games of his Baylor career, earning All-Big 12 honors as a senior and leading an offensive line that ranked third in the Big 12 and 24th nationally in rushing and fourth in sacks allowed in the conference in 2010.

Now, with just four years of football experience, he is expected to be one of the top tackles taken in the 2011 NFL Draft.

It's the last place Watkins ever thought he would be, as he grew up idolizing hockey players and playing the sport as a child.

"I was a true Canadian hockey kid -- that's what you did growing up," he said. "But when you're 270 pounds in the 12th grade ... there weren't many players in the NHL that size."

Though he had to give up that dream, he said there is plenty that he has carried over from the game to football, like moving backwards in hockey translating to pass blocking.

Because of his firefighting career, Watkins is older than most of the other prospects entering the draft. But at 26, he doesn't see it as a hindrance.

"Well I don't have arthritis, so," he laughed. "I'm a little more mature than the other guys. I don't think it's a negative."

As he continues with his new career, he hopes the success of fellow Bears in the NFL will help him come draft day.

"I think Baylor will be known for putting out offensive linemen," Watkins said. "It goes to show you the program they're running. It's definitely good to follow in (Rams offensive tackle) Jason (Smith) and J.D.'s footsteps."