Unable to pursue his Eagles career right now because of the lockout, Danny Watkins returned home to Kelowna, B.C., recently and did what he usually does there. He headed down to the West Kelowna Fire Department.
"Went and worked a bit at the fire hall. It was nice, seeing the guys," Watkins said yesterday, after he finished a workout session at Power Train in Cherry Hill, under the guidance of fellow Eagles guard Todd Herremans, who also took Watkins along on a Habitat for Humanity build in Delaware on Wednesday. "I didn't run into any burning buildings . . . We only had one fire, the 1 day there, and that was it. I was drivin' the rig."
Watkins said his FD buddies knew he had to exercise a little caution, as a first-round NFL draft pick; they made sure he didn't do anything dangerous. But otherwise, Watkins said he didn't think anyone treated him any differently than they ever had, in his first visit home of 2011. Though friends and family are definitely thrilled, he said.
"We had a family get-together, and you couldn't get any Eagles stuff in B.C. - it was all sold out, it was crazy," Watkins said. "My dad was joking, he was going to start an Eagles [merchandise] franchise in British Columbia.
"It was great to go back and see my buddies. Now we have something to talk about other than the Canucks."
Todd Watkins, who runs a road grader, was given an Eagles cap at the draft. Danny said he'd never known his dad to wear headgear, but "I don't think he's taken it off since I got drafted."
Watkins came to Philadelphia this week to find a place to live, looking forward to the day when he actually can practice and play as an Eagle. But he quickly grasped a flaw in his plan, he said.
"I went house-hunting yesterday, and the golden question is, 'When you moving in?' I'm like, 'Well, I dunno.' So I'm going to hang out here a bit, keep working out with the guys, probably go back to Texas, kind of start packing, work out, get ready to go, but that's going to be about all I can do," Watkins said.
Watkins is planning on summer school at Baylor to finish up his degree in general studies, even though his career plan after football is to return to firefighting.
"One day, my kid's gonna ask me if school's important, and I'm gonna say, 'Well, yeah, of course.' I don't want him to say, 'Well, you never graduated.' I want to be able to hang something on the wall and explain to him how it's important."
Watkins got a playbook when he visited during the draft, but once the lockout was reinstated, he could have no further contact with Eagles coaches. He hasn't been able to do much with the playbook, having never lined up in the Birds' offense.
"Todd's been really good," Watkins said. "He's kind of taken me under his wing. He's going to teach me some of the offense, as best he can. I'm kinda looking forward to that; that'll be huge for me."
Of course, even Herremans doesn't know much about what new offensive line coach Howard Mudd has in mind. That sort of stuff will have to wait for the end of the lockout.
Watkins is emphatic that whenever his football career is over, he will go back to the firehouse, the place he thought he would earn his living until he was talked into trying football 4 years ago at a junior college in California, after going there to study fire sciences. Watkins said the firehouse is much like the locker room, in the sense of the belonging it provides.
"It's like, I'd never met Todd before yesterday, but he embraced me with open arms, like we've known each other a long time. It was the same when we went to New York [for the draft, and toured an FDNY house]. It's that kind of attitude," he said. "I don't think other people will ever know what that's like . . . it's something you don't forget. They're a very special group of guys."
A group of receivers gathered with quarterback Michael Vick yesterday in Evesham Township, N.J., to work on pass timing. Vick said he wanted to convene such a group when he came to DeSean Jackson's charity event last Friday in Philadelphia. Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek were among Vick's targets yesterday.
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