Watkins Answers the Bell

Danny Watkins, the Eagles' first-round draft pick, made his way down to NovaCare from New York today and met Michael Vick, the quarterback he'll be protecting. What did they discuss? "Getting some work done," said Watkins, the 26-year-old former firefighter from Kelowna, British Columbia who took up football at 22 and then starred at Baylor.

Watkins believes having worked for a living in the real world grounds him in a way not always found in star athletes. "I'm going to bring my work boots and hard hat," he promiised.

But that grounding was being tested yesterday; Watkins admitted his head was spinning. He hadn't planned to attend the draft -- some projections had him going late in the first round, others early in the second -- but somebody put together a plan for Watkins and some of his old fightfighting buddies to go to New York and meet with FDNY members, so Watkins made his first-ever trip to the East Coast, accompanied by his father, Todd, who took time off from his job running a road grader.

"Last night was definitely a reality check," said Danny Watkins, who happened into football by chance, while taking a fire sciences program at Butte Junior College in Chico, Cal. "I'm really glad I made the decision I did."

Watkins and his friends toured Ground Zero with their new FDNY buddies. Then Watkins came to Philadelphia and visited Engine 49 at 13th and Shunk in South Philly, meeting fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers, before his introductory news conference at NovaCare.

"I can't really describe how excited I am. I'm pretty thrilled," Watkins, 6-3, 310, said. "It's been a heck of a 24 hours, that's for sure."

Todd Watkins, pride straining his sturdy blue suspenders, was asked to reconcile his son's reputation for physical play with his sunny, aw-shucks personality.

He 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."

The second and third rounds were to begin at 6 p.m., the Eagles scheduled to select 54th in the second round and 85th in the third. The fourth through seventh rounds are to be held Saturday, starting at noon.