INDIANAPOLIS - Regardless of what people think, 26-year-old, soon-to-be NFL rookie Danny Watkins isn't ready to apply for his AARP card.
“Well, I don’t have arthritis, so I’m feeling pretty good,” joked Watkins, when asked if league scouts were concerned about his age. “I don’t think so. I was doing my physical today, and I was one of the first guys out of there.”
A product of Kelowna, B.C., located about 250 miles northeast of Vancouver, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Watkins played Canada’s national pastime hockey and rugby as a child.
“I never especially cared to watch football. I watched the (Vancouver) Canucks, and that’s about it,” he said.
But as a 270-pound defensemen his senior year in high school, Watkins understood he had no future in the NHL.
So he pursued a career as a firefighter, working at a fire station in his hometown for four years.
However, his life changed when he attended Butte College in Northern California (the same school Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers played for before transferring to Cal) to pursue a fire science degree. Coaches saw his potential, and coaxed him to turn out for football.
The rest is history. Watkins earned All-American status after his sophomore year, then transferred to Baylor. He started 25 games at left tackle in two seasons for the Bears, replacing Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in 2009.
The green but nasty Canadian is part of a deep, solid, but not spectacular offensive line class that should give Seattle a chance to fill a major need late in the first round.
Watkins is considered a fringe first-round guy who the Seahawks could consider selecting at No. 25 to fill their need for an interior offensive lineman.
Another possibility is Florida center Mike Pouncey (brother of Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey), considered the top guard in this year’s draft class.
“I moved inside in the Senior Bowl and it felt pretty good,” Watkins said about playing guard. “When these teams ask me where I want to play, I tell them, ‘Wherever you feel I can best help benefit the team.’ ”
Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, the Outland Trophy winner as college’s best offensive lineman, also could be available if Seattle is looking for help at right tackle.
And Carimi does not lack for confidence. He said he believes he’s the best offensive tackle in the draft after starting four years for the Badgers at left tackle, despite some publications that have Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo, USC’s Tyron Smith and Colorado’s Nate Solder ranked ahead of him.
“I’m completely confident in my game,” Carimi said. “I really don’t have any problems. I know I’m going out there and perform. I know I’m the best tackle out there and I just have to play like it and act like it.”
Florida State guard Rodney Hudson is considered a second- or third-round prospect, should Seattle want to address its offensive line later in the draft. Hudson’s main concern is gaining weight in order to show teams he could shoulder the load inside.
Hudson played effectively at 285 pounds at left guard during his final season at Florida State. He played at 291 pounds during the Senior Bowl last month, and came in at 299 pounds for the combine. Hudson said his goal is to get up to 305 pounds for his rookie season.
Other offensive linemen who might catch Seattle’s eye as later-round picks include Alabama’s James Carpenter, a two-year starter at left tackle, and Will Rackley, a left tackle for NCAA Division II Lehigh who played in a zone scheme and likely will switch to guard. Rackley said he talked with the Seahawks at the combine.
NO FRANCHISE TAG
The Seahawks did not use the franchise tag designation for the first time in four years. Thursday was the deadline to file franchise and transition tag designations.
Last year, Seattle franchised kicker Olindo Mare for a $2.8 million price tag. This season, only Mare made any sense for the Seahawks to franchise, which would have been for a projected $3.1 million.
Mare was solid again last season, but will turn 38 in June, and the Seahawks may be looking to get younger at that position. Fourteen teams have used the franchise tag this year.
STATE (O-LINE) PRIDE
Four linemen from the state of Washington have made their way to the combine. Oregon State center Alex Linnenkohl (Capital High), Utah offensive guard Caleb Schlauderaff (Shelton), Michigan offensive guard Stephen Schilling (Bellevue) and Arizona offensive tackle Adam Grant (Puyallup) all will perform in combine drills beginning today.
“It’s kind of funny to have four O-linemen coming out of Washington in one year,” Schlauderaff said. “It’s kind of cool. We’ve got a little Washington pride going because you never see this many O-line guys from Washington (at the combine).”
New San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh was asked to comment on the rekindling of his rivalry with Seattle coach Pete Carroll now that he’s in the NFC West.
The two butted heads when Carroll was at USC and Harbaugh at Stanford, including a memorable “What’s your deal?” postgame exchange after the Cardinal handled the Trojans, 55-21, in 2009.
However, Harbaugh indicated everything was good between the two coaches.
“There’s no hostility,” Harbaugh said. “We’re competitive. We coached against each other in college, and I anticipate it will be competitive as we go forward and play each other twice a year. But you know I have a genuine respect for the job that he does, like all the rest of the coaches in the National Football League.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks