Dallas Cowboys

Former Texas Texas Tech receiver Danny Amendola talks about his NFL start with the Cowboys

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick celebrates with Danny Amendola after the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday. The Patriots won 34-28 in overtime.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick celebrates with Danny Amendola after the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday. The Patriots won 34-28 in overtime. AP

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Danny Amendola is set to play his tenth season in the NFL, but the start of his well-established career wasn't so smooth.

Before he earned a sizable payday in Miami, or became a trusted target of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the Texas Tech product was struggling to catch on with an NFL team.

Amendola, an undrafted free agent coming out of the 2008 NFL Draft, wrote an open letter in The Player's Tribune to the current crop of NFL undrafted free-agents detailing his road to NFL success.

He explains how his Texas roots led him to accept an invitation to Cowboys training camp.

Here are some of the highlights from his story.

On his first impressions of Cowboys training camp:

When I got to the Cowboys I could tell right away that I was coming to a team that pretty much already had their guys in place. If I wasn’t the very last man gunning for the very last available roster spot, I was close. What I caught onto pretty quickly was that when you’re an undrafted free agent, every day is cut day. The only way to stand out is to do something spectacular every day.

On getting drilled by safety Roy Williams:

No matter how fired up you are or convinced that you can come in and dominate, you’ll probably be humbled pretty quickly by just how intense the competition is at this level. I still remember my first day in pads during training camp when we ran a drill where I had to block Roy Williams, the former all-world safety for Dallas. Absolute beast.

I gave it my best effort, but Roy put me on my ass in fairly short order. Fortunately that didn’t make me look too bad because Roy put pretty much everybody who tried to block him on their ass. There was nothing I could really do about that, so I leaned hard into the things I was good at.

On his time with the Cowboys:

After I was let go by the Cowboys, they offered me a spot on their practice squad and that’s where I spent the entire regular season. Nobody grows up dreaming of grinding on a practice squad — I know I didn’t — but for many of you, this might be your best chance at eventually making a roster.

This process though, it’s going to test your love of football. You won’t feel like part of the team, but your body is still going to take a beating. When I was on the practice squad, it felt like I was just a guy who came in off the street three days a week to help actual NFL players get better. It was unsettling, fulfilling and there were a few times when I wondered whether I would get my shot. But I kept showing up and kept competing. I was too stubborn to stop believing in myself.

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