Danny Amendola can speak from personal experience on the value of persevering through pitfalls and real-life hard knocks to chase a goal on a path that was blocked from the beginning.
As Amendola prepares for his 11th pro season and first with the Detroit Lions, where he is expected to fill a key position as a slot receiver on a freshly designed offense, his drive to compete is as strong as ever.
So is his unwillingness to forget slights and rejections he faced as a young player trying to start a career.
Take the 2008 draft, when Amendola was coming off a senior season of 109 catches for 1,245 yards and six touchdowns at Texas Tech. Those numbers did not impress any of the 32 teams – including his hometown Houston Texans – enough to make him one of the 252 players who were drafted.
So 11 seasons, 485 regular season catches and two Super Bowl rings won in five seasons (2013-17) with the New England Patriots, the 2008 draft snub doesn’t come to mind at this time every year.
“Every year,” Amendola replied without hesitation when asked if he still thinks about not being drafted.
“I think back to when I was in college coming out, what I had to go through, the steps I had to make. I still play with that chip on my shoulder to this day, and I always will.
“It’s something that will stick with me.”
Amendola was signed after the draft by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, but that opportunity led to another indignity. He was let go in the mandatory roster cut to 53 players, but he didn’t get the news in a private chat with a coach or team official.
The Cowboys were featured that year on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Cutdown day was a featured segment – with Amendola in a starring role.
“I got cut on national TV,” he said.
His recollection of that moment came during an exchange when Amendola was asked what he’d think about the Lions being selected – despite their well known opposition -- to appear on Hard Knocks this year.
That wasn’t the end for Amendola, though. He spent the 2008 season on the Cowboys’ practice squad and was signed by the Rams in 2009.
The Rams went 1-15 that year, but it was the starting point of what has been a successful career for Amendola. He played 14 games with two starts and caught 43 passes for 326 yards and a touchdown. He was off and running – and catching passes. He led the Rams with 85 catches in 2010.
Amendola, who turns 34 in November, is best known for what he accomplished with the Patriots. His earned the nickname “Playoff Danny” for his postseason play for a franchise that considers not winning the Super Bowl a failed season. In 13 games he had 57 catches, six TDs and 12.4 yards per catch.
He moved on to the Dolphins last year for one season and signed with the Lions this year.
With the Lions in the official offseason program, it’s way too early to talk about the postseason. They’re in the beginning stages of learning the offense under new coordinator Darrell Bevell.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “We know that. We haven’t even put pads on. We’re just trying to see what these coaches want us to do.”
There are some things Amendola can pass along to teammates. One of them is the attitude that championship teams have in all aspects of the game.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Championship level of meetings. When you walk in that door, have an attitude to get better every day. Find something to get better at. That’s the first thing I can help anybody that wonders about what it takes to get to the next level, whether it be the playoffs, deep into the playoffs, Super Bowl.
“Bring that attitude every day. And that’s where we are right now.”
For those hoping to begin a career, the advice is simple.
“You only need one shot, and that’s it,” he said.
“Be ready for it.”