If you compare Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury’s football career to Detroit Lions wide receiver Danny Amendola’s, there isn’t much overlap. While both are former New England Patriots who won Super Bowls with separate teams, they’ve never truly played together. Despite this, the pair are best friends thanks in large part to a sense of duty to fellow Texas Tech alums.
Kliff Kingsbury goes to college
Kingsbury made his name at Texas Tech, where he spent four years at the quarterback position. After spending most of his freshman season on the bench, Kingsbury became the starter. Over the next three seasons, he was one of the best college quarterbacks in the country. That first year as a starter, Kingsbury threw for 3,418 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions at a 61.9% clip. It was a good, albeit unspectacular season. The next year, however, he showed how special he could be.
Kingsbury came into the 2001 season hoping to show that he belonged at a major school like Texas Tech on the biggest stage in college sports. He threw for 3,502 yards but increased his efficiency after throwing for 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions at a 69% clip. During his senior year, Kingsbury improved yet again.
As a senior, Kingsbury had to have a special year to get recognition from the NFL. He responded with, by far, his best year yet. Kingsbury had 5,000 passing yards, 45 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a 67-percent passing percentage en-route to a season that finished with him going ninth in Heisman voting. He wasn’t a surefire NFL pick, but it got him on board.
The Patriots drafted Kingsbury in the final round. As Tom Brady’s backup, however, he spent the year on the bench. Kingsbury only entered one game in the NFL with the Jets, but it laid the seeds that helped him enter the coaching world to help a future generation.
Danny Amendola goes to college
Two years after Kingsbury left Texas Tech, a young player named Danny Amendola entered. As a freshman wide receiver, Amendola didn’t have the same amount of pressure that Kingsbury had. However, while Kingsbury spent much of his first year on the bench, Amendola got thrown into the lion’s den. While nothing spectacular, he responded with 100 receiving yards and one touchdown as a secondary option for the school.
Amendola slowly but steadily got better with every year. He received nearly 400 yards as a sophomore and almost 500 yards as a junior. After one touchdown as a freshman, he increased that total every year from one to three to five. Then, as a senior, he had the breakout moment that the NFL noticed. Amendola finished his final year with 1,245 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
While this got him on the map with scouts, it ultimately ended with him going undrafted. After the Cowboys signed him, however, he made it to the pros. His career took him multiple places, but with the St. Louis Rams, he began to shine. In 2013, he signed with the Patriots, where he won two Super Bowl rings and certified his Cinderella status. His career was never the same.
Danny Amendola and Kliff Kingsbury: a friendship made in Heaven
Kingsbury and Amendola have never worked together as teammates, players, coaches, or any other official capacity. Their one connection is the school. Funny enough, while the pair is constantly seen about town hanging out, celebrating each other’s accomplishments, and going on vacations together, little is known about the origins of their friendship.
Amendola has listed Kingsbury as someone he looks up to and hopes to possibly follow into coaching. He spoke about it with At Large Magazine after his second Super Bowl:
“I left Texas Tech early to train and get ready for the Combine. I definitely want to finish my degree. With my dad being a coach, and my best friend Kliff Kingsbury head coaching my alma mater’s football team, that would be an avenue I might be able to go down. But I definitely have other interests. For now, I haven’t thought too much about life after football.”
Whether it’s their collective Texas Tech experience, Kingsbury’s later work as a coach with the school after Amendola left, their Patriots connection, or a combination, Kingsbury and Amendola have forged a strong football friendship. With Amendola reaching the later stages of his career, it will be fascinating to see where it ends up afterward.