NEW YORK - Art Briles was like a beaming papa Thursday night as two of his prized Baylor players were taken in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
For the first time in 54 years and only the second time in the 76-year history of the draft, Baylor had two players' names called in the first round when defensive tackle Phil Taylor was taken with the 21st pick overall by the Cleveland Browns and offensive lineman Danny Watkins was taken two picks later by the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I was just really happy for Phil and Danny, because of the way they took this journey," said Briles, who attended the Draft with Taylor and Watkins at Radio City Music Hall. "They both did what they had to do on and off the field - representing our university, preparing their bodies and their minds to be the best they can be on the field. And then to see the fruits of the labor pay off like it did tonight is very rewarding."
On a busy day of trading, the Cleveland Browns traded the sixth pick overall to the Atlanta Falcons for five draft picks, moving down to the 27th pick in the first round. But then they traded back up to No. 21, giving up a third-round pick, to take the 6-foot-3 ½, 334-pound Taylor.
"I feel great this is a dream come true," said Taylor, who became just the second defensive lineman in program history to go in the first round (Darryl Gardener was taken by the Miami Dolphins with the 20th pick overall in 1996). "I want to thank the Baylor fans for everything. They stuck with us through thick and thin. . . . Cleveland has an up-and-coming defense, and I'm happy to be a part of it."
Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said Taylor is "a giant man, and we feel he can play the run and get that push inside that can be really disruptive."
After the Indianapolis Colts took offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo from Boston College, the Eagles selected the 6-3 ½, 310-pound Watkins with the 23rd pick overall.
Philadelphia coach Andy Reid called Watkins as good a player as there was in the draft and a lineman capable of playing any of five positions.
"His clock started a little later, but he took to (football) right away and was so productive," Reid said. "He's a heck of a player in both the run game and pass game. I can't tell you how happy we are to have him in our program."
Watkins grew up as a hockey player in Western Canada and didn't play football until four years ago, when he signed up for a fire science course at Butte College in Oroville, Calif. The former firefighter from West Kelowna, British Columbia, brought five of his former co-workers with him to the Draft.
Reid said age - Watkins turns 27 in November - was not a concern, because he doesn't have a lot of "mileage" on him.
"My body feels fresh, and I feel good," said Watkins, a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2010. "I've lived the life of a working man with a 30-hour-a-week job."
When the Eagles called to tell Watkins they had selected him, "I thought it was a wrong number," he said.
"I'm very surprised. This is unreal," Watkins said. "I spoke with (the Eagles) at the (NFL) Combine and the Senior Bowl and on the phone a little bit, but that was about it. A lot of teams talked to me and showed interest."
Taylor and Watkins are the first Briles-recruited Baylor players taken in the NFL Draft and the first Baylor duo taken in the first round since Del Shofner and Bill Glass were taken with back-to-back picks in 1957.
"You can't put a price tag on it," said Briles, when asked what it meant for the Baylor program to have two first-rounders, "because high school kids today watch the NFL Draft, just like it's a bowl game or a championship game. They're tuned in and watching. I had a couple calls from high school guys today, saying they were going to watch the Draft tonight. It's an amazing accomplishment for (Taylor and Watkins) and a great day for Baylor football."
| BAYLOR DRAFT FACTS
Highest Draft Pick: No. 2 overall - three times: 1942 (Jack Wilson to Cleveland Rams), 1950 (Adrian Burk to Baltimore Colts) & 2009 (Jason Smith to St. Louis Rams)
Total 1st-round selections all-time: 17 [see list below]
Last time BU had 2 1st-round draftees: 1957 (B Del Shofner No. 11 to L.A. Rams & G Bill Glass No. 12 to Detroit Lions)
Last time BU had 2 draftees in first 2 rounds: 1990 (LB James Francis No. 12 in 1st to Cincinnati Bengals & DB Robert Blackmon No. 34 in 2nd to Seattle Seahawks)
Last time BU had more than 2 players drafted: 1996 (5 players drafted)
| BAYLOR ALL-TIME FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICKS
|1942||2||Jack Wilson||HB||Cleveland Rams|
|1950||2||Adrian Burk||QB||Baltimore Colts|
|1952||7||Larry Isbell||HB||Washington Redskins|
|1954||5||Cotton Davidson||QB||Baltimore Colts|
|1957||11||Del Shofner||HB||Los Angeles Rams|
|1957||12||Bill Glass||G||Detroit Lions|
|1959||9||Paul Dickson||T||Los Angeles Rams|
|1962||7||Ronnie Bull||HB||Chicago Bears|
|1965||10||Lawrence Elkins||TE||Green Bay Packers|
|1977||10||Gary Green||DB||Kansas City Chiefs|
|1979||28||Greg Hawthorne||RB||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|1982||12||Walter Abercrombie||RB||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|1990||12||James Francis||LB||Cincinnati Bengals|
|1996||20||Daryl Gardener||DT||Miami Dolphins|
||OT||St. Louis Rams|