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Amendola is in his sixth NFL season this year with New England
Oct. 12, 2013
BY NICK KOSMIDER
Life isn't really too different from the commercial for Danny Amendola.
The former Texas Tech star appeared in a Foot Locker ad this summer, shortly after signing a five-year deal with the Patriots, in which he proclaimed, "I'm Danny Amendola; I'm kind of a big deal in New England right now," only to have a fellow jogger in the park barely feign knowledge of the Patriots wide receiver.
The beauty of the satirical bit is that Amendola isn't one to care about being recognized - not for his celebrity status, anyway.
"A little bit," he said when asked if people in Boston are more apt to pick him out of a crowd now, "but I've never been too worried about that stuff."
But that certainly doesn't mean Amendola hasn't forced people to take notice. He first started doing so in 2004 as the only true freshman to start for Tech that season. It wasn't a spot he was given just by stepping on campus, rather one he earned with a tireless work ethic and electric performances on special teams.
In the third game of his college career, Amendola returned punts for 52 and 47 yards to set up touchdowns against TCU, and a few weeks later his 90-yard return for a touchdown was instrumental in the Red Raiders' 35-25 win at Kansas State.
By the time he left Tech, Amendola's 1,283 punt return yards were third most in school history.
"It was a way to get on the field as a young guy," he said. "It's something that I always enjoyed doing. It could provide a spark. It's a great position to be able to contribute to your team."
Returning punts wasn't the only way Amendola found ways to contribute, of course. As a senior, the 5-foot-11 receiver caught 109 passes for 1,245 yards and six touchdowns. And his knack for making big, heads-up plays throughout his career was instrumental in the Red Raiders' success.
There was the time during his sophomore season against Oklahoma, when late in the fourth quarter he jumped into action when a tipped pass from quarterback Cody Hodges floated perilously in the air. Amendola caught the fourth-down pass to keep the drive alive and Tech later won the game later in the drive on the final play.
That same season against Nebraska, a tipped pass from Hodges in the fourth quarter landed in the arms of a Huskers defender. Amendola alertly chased him down and, after another teammate stripped the ball loose, dove on the fumble. The Red Raiders made the most of the second chance, scoring with 30 seconds left on a pass from Hodges to Joel Filani to win the game.
"He's just a heady guy," Hodges said of Amendola. "He's extremely competitive and he just never quit on a play. Until the ball was blown dead, he was going to go after it."
When the 2008 draft rolled around, Amendola, despite a stellar senior season, didn't hear his name called. He was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, forced to prove himself yet again. Before he played a snap, football fans were drawn to Amendola while watching him fight for a roster spot on the HBO series "Hard Knocks," which chronicled the team's training camp prior to the 2008 season.
Amendola earned a spot on the Cowboys' practice squad that season, and in 2009, after a stint on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad, the St. Louis Rams had seen enough of the speedy playmaker to give him a chance on their active roster. By 2010, Amendola was leading the NFL in all-purpose yards.
Fast forward three years later, and the storied Patriots franchise was tabbing Amendola, the once undrafted, unknown commodity, to become the leader of their receiving corps.
It's been an almost meteoric rise, and it's certainly not one Amendola is taking for granted.
"Coming into the league, I didn't know what my opportunities would be as an undrafted player," Amendola said. "I knew all I could do was make the most of it, and that's why I'm where I am today. I'm excited about where I am and all I've gone through, knowing where I've come from at Texas Tech. It's been a great process so far."