Amendola Leading by Example

Posted Nov 17, 2010

For anyone that ever questioned whether Danny Amendola could live out his NFL dreams, he’d like to say, well, Amendola really doesn’t have anything to say on that topic.

Like in every other facet of what he’s about, Amendola chooses to let his actions do his talking.

And if you were one of those wondering whether the diminutive Amendola could play and make an impact in the NFL, his play on the field this season is giving you the type of resounding answer to which there is no response.

“I always felt like I could play in the league, it was just a matter of getting that opportunity and running with it is the key,” Amendola said. “I am trying to do that and going to continue to do so.”

Like a smoke screen thrown his way, Amendola is certainly taking the opportunity the Rams have afforded him in 2010 and taken off down the field with it.

Last week against San Francisco, Amendola extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown reception to three with a score against the 49ers.

Through nine games, Amendola leads the team in receptions (52), receiving yards (430) and receiving touchdowns (three). Those numbers put him on pace for about 92 catches for 765 yards and five touchdowns, which would all easily become career highs.

Amendola has been particularly dangerous on third down, where he sits in a tie for second in third down receptions with 19 on the season.

Not bad for a 5’10, 186 pound bundle of energy who only a little more than a year ago was looking for his first chance to make a difference in regular season NFL games. 

“He is a great, great player,” receivers coach Nolan Cromwell said. “I just marvel at the things he has been able to do. He’s a productive player who just plays the game the way it is supposed to be played: all out, all the time. He doesn’t care about what his progression is in the route, what the play is. He says ‘This is my job and I am going to do it as fast and as well as I can.’ He doesn’t care if he’s the clear out guy. He’s completely unselfish.”

Amendola’s attitude is one area of his game that has never come into question. Growing up in The Woodlands, Tex., Amendola initially believed his athletic future would take him to baseball.

Clearly, Amendola had never been one of the bigger kids growing up and baseball seemed like a logical landing spot considering that size was rarely much of an issue if you could play.

“I thought that was going to be my deal,” Amendola said. “But baseball is too slow so I ended up going with football.”

Despite his lack of size, Amendola says he was never anything but encouraged by those around him to pursue and attempt to become a productive football player. He spent most of his time working on refining his craft in hopes that scouts would see well beyond his size in offering evaluations of him.

“I felt like in some cases I had been overlooked like coming out of college and stuff,” Amendola said. “But that’s the way it is. You’ve just got to – if you’re smaller in size – you have to work just as hard to get where you want to be.”

Since he wasn’t the biggest or the strongest or the fastest, Amendola developed a reputation for being hard nosed and fearless. Even today, he stands as one of the toughest players – pound for pound – in the NFL.

“He’s off that charts there, in everything he does,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “I’m talking about his toughness in practice and walking in the hallway he looks tough.  He’s just a feisty guy that loves playing football and he gives everything he’s got all the time.  He’s one of those…you’d like a lot of those guys on your team.”

After spending time on the practice squads of Dallas and Philadelphia in 2008 and 2009, the Rams signed Amendola to their active roster on Sept. 22, 2009. In coming to St. Louis, Amendola knew he’d have plenty to learn but he was also aware that playing time was available to be won with the Rams.

Amendola was used sparingly at receiver in putting up 43 receptions for 326 yards and a touchdown but he made his name as a returner, setting nearly every important return record in franchise history.

Fast forward to this year and Amendola still has the return work on his plate but he’s pulling double duty as quarterback Sam Bradford’s favorite target.

“I can feel myself getting better as a receiver,” Amendola said. “I have more confidence, more experience. This is technically my second year. I am learning something every day and especially in these games. It’s slowing down a little bit. It’s still a fast game of course. But it’s slowing down in a sense that it’s easier to know what the defenses are doing, what they are trying to do. It’s coming together a lot faster than it was two years ago and even last year. It’s been nice.”

For his part, Bradford says it’s easy to look for Amendola because he trusts that No. 16 will be where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there and he’s always moving at full speed.

"There’s no doubt. I think Danny’s a great player for us. He makes a lot of plays for us. He’s definitely someone that I look to. I feel like we do have a great chemistry

Entering the season, Amendola was regarded mostly for his return duties but throughout the preseason continued to be the team’s most consistent play maker.

When older wideouts Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton were lost to season-ending injuries, it created a void not only in terms of pass catchers but also in leadership.
“We are not asking him to do anything he hasn’t done,” Cromwell said. “I think the way he plays, everybody wants to do that. He sets the example of the way the game is supposed to be played. In practice and the games, he’s tremendous.”

Because of his stoic and quiet nature, Amendola’s emerging leadership role doesn’t come with a lot of rah rah or fiery speeches. Much like answering his doubters, Amendola lets his play do the talking.

“I feel like you can’t be forced into a leadership role or it just doesn’t work that well,” Amendola said. “You have got to fall into it. I am not a very vocal guy. I like to lead by example; I have always been like that. That’s just the way I am.”