The first thing you notice about Danny Watkins is his baby face, which is somewhat ironic because the only real negative on his scouting report is that he will turn 27 during his rookie season. But don't let Watkins' cherubic cheeks fool you, when the Canadian former firefighter gets on the football field, he's about as mean as it gets.
"Playtime's over when the game starts," said Watkins on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters after he he was selected with the 23rd overall pick. "I like playing physical and tough and that's just the only way I've really grown up in sports is being physical and tough. In hockey, you have to go out looking for a hit. In football, the guy's six inches from your face. Someone's got to win that battle and I like winning."
That kind of mindset figures to be music to the ears of new offensive line coach Howard Mudd, a self-proclaimed hard-nosed guy himself. In fact, when Watkins met Mudd at the Scouting Combine earlier in the pre-draft process, Mudd let Watkins know he was a fan.
"He praised me for the style and nature that I play - physical and to-the-whistle," Watkins said. "That's what I'm good at and he seemed to like that a lot."
Of course, the expectation when you draft a 26-year-old offensive lineman in the first round is that the player will step into the starting lineup almost on day one. Luckily, Watkins has that very intention.
"I'm making a personal expectation of myself to come in and start," he said. "I'm a highly motivated person and I don't think it's going to be too much of an issue, so I'm looking forward to getting in there and getting rolling."
Even though Watkins is 26, he's got plenty of upside. Not only has he only been playing football for four years, but he never played guard until the Senior Bowl - which he dominated. And, as Watkins sees it, his combination of fresh legs and worldly experience portends for a bright future.
"I don't see (my age) as an issue by any means," he said. "I just took a different path to get here. I'm not collecting my 401k by any means."
When asked about his decision to pursue his previous career of firefighter, Watkins pointed to one commonality with football - brotherhood.
"Honestly? The guys that you work with and the desire to help people," he said. "Today, I had some of the Canadian firemen with me and some of the members of the FDNY. It's the same thing on the football field, you're with the same guys day-in and day-out, they're your brothers and you'd do anything for them, and it's the same in the firehouse. They're your brother and you're with them through the good and the bad. When it comes to that, I've been really lucky to be with great guys at Baylor and at Butte and I'm really looking forward to getting to know the guys in Philly."
The other plus of Watkins' experience under fire? You can rest assured that he won't be rattled by things like hostile crowds or tight fourth-quarter contests.
"There have been a couple high-pressure games and the boys are getting all worked up," Watkins said, "and I look at them and I say, 'Boys, trust me when I say it could be worse.'"