Eagles pick offensive lineman Watkins at No. 23

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Eagles pick offensive lineman Watkins at No. 23

Thursday, April 28, 2011
Posted: 10:35 p.m. Updated: April 29, 12:17 a.m.
By Reuben Frank
CSNPhilly.com

Danny Watkins figures hes spent enough time not playing football. Hes ready to play right from Day 1.

Im making a personal expectation of myself to come in and start, said Watkins, a Canadian firefighter-turned-offensive lineman. Im a highly motivated guy, and Im looking forward to coming in there and get started.

The Eagles moved to beef up their beleaguered offensive line Thursday night by drafting the 26-year-old Watkins with the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft.

Watkins, 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, spent five years working as a firefighter in his hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia, before entering a California junior college, where he began playing football when he was 23. After learning the fundamentals of the game at tiny Butte College, a junior college in Oroville, Calif., he transferred to Baylor, where he blossomed into a top NFL prospect.

This is a guy that is a tough, tough guy, Eagles head coach Andy Reid said. Hes also a good football player and hes got phenomenal character on and off the field. Hes a class act. The thing that jumps out at you is that hes a relentless worker and one tough nut. And I like that.

Reid said that even though Watkins is new to the game and never played a snap of football on any level until 2007, he believes Watkins will be able to start as a rookie.

Hes talented enough to do that, Reid said. This guy physically is ready to go.

At what spot? Right guard is the obvious position, but Reid said nothing is settled yet. Watkins played tackle in college but will start out here as a guard.

I just wanted to make sure we got the best football player to bring in here, and we did, Reid said. Well find a spot for him. Thats the easy part.

Reid left open the possibility that Watkins could work in at left guard, with Todd Herremans moving to right tackle. Presumably, Mike McGlynn could get a shot at right guard, assuming Jamaal Jackson is healthy after two serious injuries.

I have a lot of flexibility there, Reid said. Right now, Im looking at guard, but he can really play any position you need him to play. Hes that kind of an athlete.

Weve got a group of guys who played tackle in college and they can all move around. Todds played both sides, Dannys played both sides, Todds played tackle, left and right, so weve got some flexibility there, which is a neat thing.

Reid said he and general manager Howie Roseman have had Watkins targeted as their top prospect for several months and nothing happened to change their mind.

An NFL front office source said the Eagles picked Watkins at 23 instead of trying to trade down and get him early in the second round because they had reason to believe the Seahawks at 25, the Patriots at 28, the Bears at 29, the Steelers at 31 and the Packers at 32 were all seriously considering landing Watkins with their late first-round picks.

Howie had this guy right from the get-go at the top, Reid said. This was a guy that he really wanted and liked, and so when I looked at him, I said, This guy is as fine a football player as you have in the offensive line in this draft and then Howard (Mudd, offensive line coach) came back and said the same thing, that this guy was a top-quality player.

The guys at the Senior Bowl saw that. You saw this guy go out and dominate in the one-on-ones, you saw him dominate in the game, and it was the first time he played guard. He lit it up. But thats what hes been doing all year. Thats how he plays.

This is one of those guys that you cant help but like when you look at him. He knows how to play the game.

The biggest knock on Watkins is his age, but Reid said the Eagles have no concerns about Watkins being four years older than most players in the draft.

I know theres been a lot of things said about Dannys age, but we felt Danny was as good a football player as there was in the draft, Reid said. His body hasnt gone through that beating up process when youre playing football, so his clock started late to this sport. ...

I know its not a glamor position, but its a position that is very crucial in this sport, and we wanted to make sure we maintained a strong offensive line.

We lost a few veteran offensive linemen over he last couple years, and we wanted to make sure we continued to build that line to be the strongest in the National Football League, and this is a step forward.

The Eagles allowed 49 sacks last year and three more in the wild-card loss to the Packers. They have a new offensive line coach in Mudd and now a first-round pick to go with him.

Protecting Michael Vick is this teams biggest priority, and Reid believes this move makes the Eagles better equipped to do that.

Hell bring a toughness that the city of Philadelphia thrives on, Reid said. A blue-collar attitude to that offensive line. ... When he stepped on the football field, he took to the game and has just been so productive. What you see is a heck of a player both in the run game and the pass game.

Watkins said he became a football player almost accidentally at Butte, which he initially enrolled in to study firefighting.

I went to junior college for fire science, and the football coach asked me to come out and play football, Watkins said from Radio City Music Hall Thursday evening. I just said, What the heck, and it took off from there.

Watkins said he had no idea the Eagles were going to draft him.

Very surprised, Watkins said. This is unreal.

This is only the third time since 2003 the Eagles have used their original draft pick in the first round. They traded up in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010 and traded out of the first round in 2007 and 2008.

The only other offensive lineman Reid has taken in the first round is Shawn Andrews at No. 16 in 2004. The Eagles last three first-round offensive linemen Jermane Mayberry in 1996, Tra Thomas in 1998 and Andrews in 2004 have all been picked to at least one Pro Bowl team.

Although the questions about his advanced age will linger, Watkins said it shouldnt be an issue.

My body feels great, I feel good, Watkins said. Being 26 years old, Im experienced. Ive lived the life of a working man, had a 40-hour-a-week job, and Im just really excited to get this going.

I dont see it as an issue by any means. I just took a different path to get here. Im not collecting my 401K by any means. My bodys fresh.

Reid said he would be concerned about Watkins age if he had been playing all these years. But he hasnt.

Hes not beat up like you see a lot of offensive and defensive linemen, Reid said. Youre getting a fresher 26-, 27-year-old.

Reid said the Eagles were never close Thursday to trading up, even as prized cornerback Prince Amukamara slid down toward where the Eagles were picking. Amukamara wound up going to the Giants at No. 19.

We really werent, he said. There was nothing. We had this guy targeted, we were hoping he was there. If there was (somebody we liked), we would have gone up and snagged him, but we really liked him.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

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National champion Villanova honored by President Obama

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National champion Villanova honored by President Obama

WASHINGTON — For the most successful senior class in the history of Villanova basketball, Tuesday's trip to the White House was the culmination of a championship season and quite possibly the final time the 2016 National Championship team will be together as one.

President Barack Obama praised their poise, which was epitomized by the final play when Ryan Arcidiacono fed Kris Jenkins for the buzzer-beating, championship-winning three-pointer.

"A lot of teams would have had their spirit broken — the Wildcats, they took control, they responded," Obama said. "And on a play called ' 'Nova,' Kris took a pass from Arch and pulled up a few steps behind the line and shot this team into basketball lore. That was a good shot. It was like Christian Laettner-good. It was like a Jimmy-V-running-up-and-down-the-court shot. Charles Barkley apparently jumped out of his seat, which — (laughter) — he doesn’t do very often these days." 

In what has become customary for a championship team's visit, head coach Jay Wright presented the 44th President of the United States with a Wildcat jersey and the number "44." The Wildcats wore the uniform when they played Oklahoma on Dec. 7 of last year in Obama's home state of Hawaii.

"This was an amazing day for us," Wright said. "We not only presented him with the jersey, but with a picture of him that mirrored Kris Jenkins hitting that game-winning shot, because we've got a lot of respect for him as a great leader."

While gracious as guests at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., it was the Wildcats who spoiled Obama's tournament bracket when they knocked off the president's pre-tournament pick, Kansas, in the Elite Eight on their way to the Final Four. At the time he made his picks back in March, Obama mentioned Wright's Wildcats, telling ESPN, "I know eventually they're going to break through." He just wasn't confident enough to see the 'Cats win it all roughly three and a half weeks later.

Obama on Tuesday confirmed he should have listened to his second-in-command, "Joe (Biden) wanted me to remind you that he picked 'Nova to win it all. This is the type of wise counsel that you are looking for from a vice president. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow his counsel and so my bracket was busted.

Wearing a stars-and-stripes bow tie, junior Josh Hart, who decided last week to return to Villanova for his senior season, attended nearby Sidwell Friends School, where he was a classmate with President Obama's oldest daughter Malia.

"We talked a little, not too much," Hart said. "I try to give her some space. She's busy with senior projects and graduation and stuff."

Now Hart will refocus on guiding Villanova to become the first school since the Florida Gators in 2006-07 to win back-to-back National titles, and with that, a return trip to the White House.

Kris Jenkins shared video of Villanova doing Running Man Challenge at White House

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Kris Jenkins shared video of Villanova doing Running Man Challenge at White House

Tony Hawk has skateboarded at the White House. Women's lacrosse champions have worn fliflops at the White House.

Now, the Villanova Wildcats have done the Running Man Challenge at the White House.

The video was shared on Kris Jenkins' Instagram account this afternoon. They don't call him "Big Smooth" for nothing.

Officially ending this Runningman challenge. Presidential edition. #GameBlouses #NovaSzn

A video posted by Kris Jenkins (@bigsmoove2) on

In case you missed it earlier, President Obama welcomed the 2016 NCAA Champion Villanova Wildcats to his crib and called Jay Wright the, "George Clooney of coaches." He's not wrong.

Despite rocky offseason, Eagles QBs have 'a really good relationship'

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Despite rocky offseason, Eagles QBs have 'a really good relationship'

Sam Bradford says Carson Wentz is a great kid. Carson Wentz says his relationship with Sam Bradford is special.

So much for them hating each other.

Bradford and Wentz both spoke glowingly of each other Tuesday after an OTA practice at the NovaCare Complex.

And both spoke equally highly of Chase Daniel, the Eagles’ other quarterback.

Turns out they all like each other.

Boring? Yeah. Drama? No. But they all say that’s the reality.

“They’re great dudes,” Bradford said. “We have a really good room. Having Chase in the room for me and Carson has been great because he’s been in the system for what, three? This is his fourth year in the system? So he understands some of the smaller details.

“Like when we watch tape, he’s able to point out, ‘Hey, this play looks like this against this coverage,’ or, ‘You can short-cut this read and (throw) here a little quicker against this coverage.’ So I think having him in the room with me and Carson has been really good.

“Carson, he’s been great. He’s a great kid, he’s really talented. It’s been fun working with him, trying to help him, trying to just share bits of information that I’ve picked up.”

It was the Eagles’ decision to trade up to No. 2 in the draft and take Wentz that led Bradford to leave voluntary practices for two weeks and demand a trade.

It wasn’t until he returned earlier this month that he even met Wentz, the former North Dakota State star.

But Wentz said there’s been no tension between the two. The opposite has been the case.

“It’s been great working with Sam, working with Chase,” Wentz said. “We’ve got an awesome quarterback room. A lot of really good discussions about the play book, about life. It’s been great.

“And then on the practice field, it’s been great for me. We all have a really good relationship. Nothing but great things to say about those guys.”

Head coach Doug Pederson has maintained that Bradford is the starter going into the regular season. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said there’s open competition.

Whatever happens in September, it’s only a matter of time until this is Wentz’s team.

But Daniel said so far everybody is handling a tricky situation just fine.

“You know what, business is business,” Daniel said Tuesday. “Like I’ve said before, everyone handles (those situations) a little bit differently. For me, there’s no awkwardness. I know I’ve talked to Sam, there’s no (awkwardness).

“It’s you check your ego at the door, it’s time to go to work. Let’s go to work.”

If there are any hard feelings, these three quarterbacks are certainly hiding them very well.

“The relationship we have with us three is huge,” Wentz said. “We’re not out there to get each other, we’re out there to make the team better. (That) not only uplifts the team but makes us individually better.

“Being able to work together and not have to worry and stress out about the other stuff. At the end of the day makes the team better.”

Bradford is the incumbent starter. Daniel is the most experienced in Pederson’s offense. Wentz is the hot-shot rookie.

It’s a better story if they hate each other. But so far at least, they seem to be getting along just great.

“For me and the rest of the quarterbacks, we view every day as an opportunity to get better,” Wentz said.

“We have a little friendly competition among ourselves to make us better. If we’re all pushing each other, working together, it only makes the team better, and I think that’s something we have going on here that’s really special.”