Football journey: Danny Amendola

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
5:00
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the question is asked to Patriots receiver Danny Amendola about the high and low points of his football career, from age 10 to the present day, he is temporarily stumped.

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Amendola
"I'll be guessing on both of these," he starts, "but [lowest] is not getting drafted and the highest point is probably yet to come. I'm looking forward to it."

It's an optimistic viewpoint, shaped in part by the underdog route he's taken to arrive at this point. The 28-year-old Amendola entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2008, spending time with the Cowboys and Eagles before finally breaking through with the Rams.

After signing a five-year, $31 million contract with the Patriots this year, it's hard to consider Amendola an underdog any more, even if that's the mentality with which he plays.

He shares his "football journey":

When he first started playing football: "In organized leagues, tackle, when I was 10."

What got him started: "My dad is a high school football coach in Texas. I was always a ballboy growing up and wanted to go play early."

First positions: "Quarterback."

Favorite players growing up: "Wayne Chrebet. He was a smaller, scrappy guy, kind of like myself. I just related to that."

Favorite teams growing up: "The Oilers. Warren Moon. Ernest Givins ..."

[+] EnlargeDanny Amendola
Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesDanny Amendola has 29 catches for 341 yards and a touchdown in six games for the Patriots.
Role models in his football life: "Guys I still talk to today, high school coaches. Texas high school football is really kind of a big deal. They pride themselves on doing a good job and taking care and minding their work. I respected that, obviously, and really looked up to them growing up. I still talk to all my high school coaches today."

Role models in his non-football life: "My immediate family. My mom and my dad, everything they've taught me."

Favorite memories of high school football at The Woodlands: "Playing against my dad. We won two out of three. Of course, he knew all the plays. He was the defensive coordinator and I remember one specific time it was third-and-10 and he was physically out on the field, on the numbers, screaming out the play. I remember looking back, saying, 'Get back!' He's a smart guy, so he knew what was up."

Why Texas Tech was the right college choice for him: "Just watching their offense go, and watching them throw the ball on every play, pretty much. I committed there when I was a junior in high school so I knew I was going there. I wanted to be in that offense."

Best memories at Texas Tech: "Just being in the locker room with the guys. College football is really unique because you're with the guys all the time. You live with them, you go to school with them, you work out with them, you play football with them, you party with them. It's really a family atmosphere."

If he thought he'd be drafted: "I didn't really know. I knew I had a shot to get a chance in a camp and that's honestly the only thing I wanted and just to try to run with that."

Signing with the Cowboys as a rookie free agent and spending the year on their practice squad: "I knew I was going to have an opportunity. I didn't know when it was, but I knew if I got that opportunity I would have to make the most of it. I learned a lot. It was a whirlwind for me coming from the stuff we did at Texas Tech and relating that to the NFL, it was totally different. It took me a couple months to catch on and get a good idea of how it was going to be."

Spending time on the Eagles practice squad in 2009: "That was my second offense, so I could kind of relate the first offense I learned in Dallas to the offense I was learning in Philly, and I could try to match them together and get the gist of the NFL and how it worked. I feel like I really grew up as a second-year guy."

Being signed off the Eagles practice squad to the Rams' roster in 2009: "That was my first real shot. I tried to take that in stride the best I could. The biggest thing I learned in St. Louis, early, was that it's hard to win in the NFL and every time you do be excited about it. And you need to learn something from winning and losing. There is always something to take away from each."

The challenge of his early-career movement from team to team: "It was challenging -- three teams in pretty much a year. I was just searching for my opportunity and trying to run with it."

Signing with the Patriots as a free agent in 2013: "I was really excited. I feel like I'm ready and been around the game, and the NFL game, long enough to know what to expect when I got here. It's been a learning process. I'm obviously really excited to be here."

Life as a Patriot: "It's good. We don't spend too much time smelling the roses or anything like that. It's all work and that's what I really appreciate about it."

What he loves about football: "The competitiveness. Being out there on Sunday, being in front of a lot of people, and having fun with my teammates."

How the game has taught him about himself: "It teaches a lot of things. One specific thing is how you deal with adversity. Everything in the game doesn't go your way. It's not necessarily how things are going when it's good, but how you respond to things when they go bad. It's like that in life too. ... You play a lot of football and meet a lot of people and you take away what you will. You try to consume the things that you can learn from and get better as a person and football player."

Summing up his football journey: "It's been a lot of fun. The most important thing I've taken away from it is meeting a lot of my best friends. You learn a lot about people when you play the game with them. I'm excited to further extend my career to see where it goes."

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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