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Amendolla pinballs into the record books.
By Nick Wagoner
The Rams were just two games into the season and they found themselves banged up at receiver and looking for someone to inject life into a sagging return game.
In Danny Amendola, they hoped to find an answer for at least one of those questions. What they might not have expected was a cure for the ailing return unit and a surprise contributor to the offense. In Amendola, they found both.
“Danny has been great,” special teams coach Tom McMahon said. “Danny has toughness, and that’s the biggest quality that I see in him. And, he’s a pro, he always spends extra time, and the guys see that, and they block harder for him. When you’ve got a guy who is putting in extra time, the other guys perform harder.”
Since signing with the team on Sept. 22, Amendola has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2009 season. For a team that has repeatedly gone to the well in search of someone who can stick, Amendola has perhaps been the most consistent contributor to the team on a weekly basis.
“Personally, I was just trying to come in and fill a role and do what I do to help the team in any which way,” Amendola said. “It’s been fun getting in there.”
Upon his signing, Amendola’s foremost job was to help on special teams where he was immediately plugged in as the starting kickoff and punt returner.
After bouncing around some from Philadelphia’s practice squad this season and the same role in Dallas the year before, Amendola made his NFL regular season debut on Sept. 27 against Green Bay.
Amendola went right to work, returning eight kickoffs in his debut for 187 yards. The eight returns were tied for the most in franchise history. He also returned a pair of punts for 23 yards. All in all, not a bad first day of work.
Since, Amendola has made a statement about his ability to return kicks in the NFL. IN last week’s game against Houston, Amendola five kicks for 159 yards. In the process, he set the Rams season mark for return yards at 1,435 yards. That bests the previous mark of 1,379 yards held by Tony Horne from 2000.
This week, four kick returns for Amendola would push him past Drew Hill for the most returns in a season by a Ram.
Impressive numbers sure, but ones that Amendola doesn’t spend much time worrying about.
“I didn’t even know that,” Amendola said. “That’s great I guess. At the end of the day, I just want to get more wins. That’s all I can really say.”
The always humble Amendola joins some pretty impressive company among players that have held the return duties in Rams history. Although the past few years haven’t provided much in the way of spark in the return game, there is a long line of guys who have done it and done it well in team history.
Horne, Az-Zahir Hakim, Hill and Dante Hall are among the most accomplished returners in team history. While Hall was near the end of his illustrious career when he got to St. Louis, Amendola knows him well and considers it an honor to follow Hall’s footsteps.
“I remember growing up watching Dante Hall,” Amendola said. “He’s a Houston guy. My dad actually coached him in high school so I had been around him before I got here. He was a guy I always looked up to. His football abilities were really great. He was the Human Joystick, that’s what they called him. He was incredible. Just to be mentioned with some of those guys is crazy.”
Make no mistake; Amendola’s contributions haven’t been limited to special teams, either. In that game against the Texans, he broke off a 55-yard kick return that was buoyed by a facemask penalty to give the Rams field position at Houston’s 25.
It was only fitting then, that Amendola was rewarded for his efforts by catching his first NFL touchdown, a 2-yard strike from Keith Null that put the Rams up 10-6.
Really, the only thing missing for Amendola has been the return for a touchdown, though he’s been close on a number of occasions.
“He has been real close, and he’ll get his day,” McMahon said. “It’s a game of inches, they say it and it is the truth. If Danny keeps working, hopefully those things will come in bunches for him. In my opinion, he deserves that. He works hard.”
Although he’s a bit undersized, Amendola has showed a knack for catching almost anything thrown his way and for using his speed underneath to make plays from the slot and pick up first downs.
For the season, Amendola has 34 catches for 270 yards with the touchdown. Now with his first season under his belt, he remains confident he’s only going to continue to get better from here.
“I definitely do,” Amendola said. “I think you have to think that or you are not going to be able to. Having gained that experience and going into the offseason knowing what to expect, it’s easier for the second year. That’s why guys in their second year are more successful.”
Aside from the obvious contributions, it’s the little things that Amendola does that has endeared him to his teammates.
Many times, when a punt has been booted too deep and he has no intention of returning it, Amendola will be quick to step up and lay a good lick on the gunners coming down the sideline, thus preventing them from getting there in time to keep the ball from traveling into the end zone.
It’s something Amendola learned in college at Texas Tech and just one example of the things Amendola does to stay aggressive and help the Rams on Sundays.
And it’s that aggressiveness that has helped Amendola stay healthy despite his 5’11, 186-pound stature.
“For me, I don’t even worry about it. I just play as hard as I can,” Amendola said. “I was always told you play as hard as you can and you won’t get injured as much as if you are coasting around and not aware of your surrounding and half butting it around. That’s when you get hurt is what I was told so I try to stay out of that situation as much as possible.”
Amendola’s ability to stay healthy has been but one reason he’s contributed all season. But it hasn’t been easy. He has taken plenty of hard hits this season, including a monster collision in Detroit that left him woozy.
If nothing else, though it hasn’t earned him a nickname as cool as the ‘Human Joystick,’ it’s been enough to earn him a similar moniker from his teammates.
“Some guys call me the Human Pinball,” Amendola said, laughing.
I really like this guy, hope he has a lot of years with the rams.
-12-24-2009 #2Registered User
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Re: Amendolla pinballs into the record books.
In no way do I say this to bash Danny, I think he is one of our few bright spots, but the record of most returns in a season isn't so much a good thing for a returner, but a bad thing for us giving up a lot of scores. Either way, hope he takes one, or more, to the house in these last 2 games!
-12-25-2009 #3Mooselini Guest
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