Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins may have forged the most unique path to college football.
Watkins, 26, enrolled in the junior firefighters program in his hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia, when he was 16, and didn't start playing football until after he came to junior college in America just a few years ago. His size caught the eye of a few folks on campus.
By the end of his first spring on campus, Watkins became Baylor's starting left tackle and now is a possible first-round pick in the NFL draft later this month. He was invited to attend, and accepted, but plans to bring a few special guests with him, according to the Vancouver Sun.
Watkins played his college football at Baylor, in Waco, Tex., although he wonders if his life and football career might have taken a very different turn had he not enrolled in the West Kelowna junior firefighters program as a 16-year-old.
Now, 10 years later, Watkins is showing his great affection for some of the West Kelowna firefighters who helped mould his personal and professional life by inviting them to be with him in New York.
"They're guys you'd never forget," Watkins said Wednesday. "I'm bringing five altogether. They're the guys who have been with me since the beginning, when I was just a young, immature kid. They've taught me a lot ... they've become very close friends. I wish I could bring a lot more of them, but I don't have a lot of money yet."
You can't write it any better than that. It's clear how much that unlikely path meant to Watkins.
Additionally, how about this for Baylor: If Watkins goes in the first round, it'll be two consecutive Bears left tackles to enter the league as first-round draft picks.
Jason Smith was selected No. 2 overall in the 2009 draft. Here's where Watkins was slotted in the last couple ESPN mock drafts.