"Having the opportunity to do this is pretty cool."Three years ago, Danny Watkins was a 22-year-old firefighter only just beginning work on a college degree. Today, he's a Baylor senior with sights not only on a degree but also a career in the NFL.
Not bad for a kid from a small city in western Canada, eh?
"Everyday I'm pretty proud of what I've accomplished coming up to here," says the 6-foot-4, 310-pound offensive lineman. "Having the opportunity to do this [play football at Baylor] is pretty cool."
A native of British Columbia, Watkins enrolled at Butte College in California in 2007 to further his career as a firefighter. At the time, he had actually been living in the local fire hall, working nights.
"I gave that up to go to school in California for fire science, to advance my fire career," he recalls. "Not a lot of people can say they actually lived there. It was very busy; not a lot of sleep. But it was a lot of fun -- like a party 24/7, running on no sleep and running into burning buildings, if you can think of it that way."
Intrigued by his size, the Butte College coaches had Watkins walk onto the Roadrunners football team, despite the fact that Watkins had never played a down of football. Two seasons later he left as a junior college all-American.
At Baylor, Watkins stepped into some big shoes, taking over at left tackle for departing senior Jason Smith, the second overall pick in that spring's NFL Draft. He's filled them well; as a senior, Watkins is an all-America candidate and on the watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award (recognizing the top collegiate lineman). And he's got a good shot at following Smith again -- this time to the NFL.
"Danny's got a very interesting story," says head coach Art Briles. "He understands where his potential could lead him, and that's going to be in the NFL."