Wide receiver Danny Amendola grew up in a football-loving family, with a coach for a father. This gave him advantages, as he hit the ground running in youth football. But don’t mistake that leg-up for an easy path to success. Adversity defined the Lions receiver’s upbringing. It came from his brother’s aggressiveness and regularly facing his father on the gridiron.
Danny Amendola wanted to be a baseball player before football
The future Lions receiver was always on the path toward sports. From the point when he was four years old, watching a famed Friday night lights Texas high school game for the first time, Amendola was hooked in. His path quickly diverged away from football itself, however.
He spent his early years playing baseball, instead. It was where he first showed great athletic aptitude, the Providence Journal reports. Amendola wanted to be a second baseman, and his defensive skills stood out. He played in select leagues, AAU, and even made an appearance at the youth baseball National Championships.
As Amendola got older, however, a weakness was exposed. “I couldn’t hit a curveball,” he told the Providence Journal. “I was 18 … going through a lot of things. It was a transition stage in my life. The curveball wasn’t part of it.”
Amendola grew up battling members of his own family
The Amendola household was a bit of an odd duck in their small-town Texas community. It was also basically a dream demographic for success in sports. Amendola’s parents were both sports-obsessed transplants from Boston. His mother, Rose, brought him to local games in Texas, and to other sporting events in her hometown of Boston on visits, as Heavy reports.
Rose is classic Boston Irish; Willie, Amendola’s father, is classic Boston Italian. Those roots inflected their household. They call what they put on their pasta it “gravy” instead of “sauce,” as Amendola vehemently declared in a Patriots.com interview. That intense Italian household drive for their children to succeed was ingrained in Willie, who had his baseball-loving son doing tackling drills before joining his school’s football team.
Willie was a high school defensive coordinator, a much-vaunted role in the football-crazy town of the Woodlands, Texas. The problem was, it was for Amendola’s cross-town rivals. Throughout high school, both Danny and his brother Matt had to face down their own father’s defensive machinations on the field. “We made it fun and never held a grudge,” Danny told At Large Magazine. “Of course, we both wanted to win the game.”
Speaking of Matt, he was just as intense as Willie. The brothers regularly roughhoused and practiced tackle drills, with Matt as the bigger, stronger role model to look up to. “I was never the fastest or strongest guy,” Danny said later in his At Large interview. “So that and my older brother, who used to beat the shit out of me, were motivating factors. It toughened me up.”
Amendola’s hunger for adversity could help the Detroit Lions
Amendola woke up ready day ready to win against his own family. That drive pushed him through a successful, longer-than-average career in the NFL. He proves that his body and mind are both resilient, pushing through injuries and difficult situations. He proved it when he pulled in the clutch pass that won the Patriots’ 2018 AFC Championship matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, as Boston.com reports.
Will he do it again with the Lions? Even as the team’s No. 3 receiver, he’s still had opportunities for clutch plays according to CBS Sports. The Lions constantly rotating approach to receivers has Amendola participating in just 49% of the snaps he’s available for.
But when he gets time, he proves why he deserves to be there. For example: catching three of four targets in a November 1st game against the Indianapolis Colts. An injury slowed him shortly after that, but once’s he’s back, don’t count him out.