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Danny Amendola has his Eagles practice squad jersey framed on his wall as motivation

Danny Amendola’s time on the Eagles’ practice squad shaped his whole NFL career.

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Danny Amendola is a household name after two Super Bowl wins, and a chance for a third, with the New England Patriots. He’s come a long way from his short stint with the Patriots’ opponent in Super Bowl 52: the Philadelphia Eagles.

Amendola was on the Eagles’ practice squad back in 2009, but he never saw the field during the regular season. He said his time in Philadelphia helped shape him into the receiver he is today: A guy who can deliver 84 yards and two touchdowns — including the eventual game winner — to help his team get past the Jaguars in the AFC Championship.

“I was very low on the depth chart and learning, but I got some great tutelage from some really good coaches,” Amendola said about his time with the Eagles, via ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “There were a lot of good receivers there, too: Jason Avant, DeSean Jackson. Jeremy Maclin. Hank Baskett. Kevin Curtis was there; a guy I learned a lot from. I still carry those relationships on now with most of those guys.”

A friend found Amendola’s original practice jersey from his time with the Eagles on Ebay and sent it his way.

“So he framed it up, sent it to me, and said ‘This is a daily reminder of how far you’ve come, and don’t forget that they cut you,’” Amendola told NFL Network’s Deion Sanders during Super Bowl Opening Night. “So it’s definitely a chip that I like to have on my shoulder.”

“He bought it, sent it to me framed and said, ‘Hang this on your wall so you’ll never forget the day they cut you.’ I have it hanging,” Amendola said. “I’ll never forget that.”

Amendola’s size — 5’11, 190 pounds — and speed (a 4.58 40-yard dash) kept teams from pulling the trigger during the 2008 draft. He signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent and was one of the heavily featured fringe players fighting for a roster spot on that season of Hard Knocks. He spent his rookie season on their practice squad.

Amendola’s time with the Eagles won him a roster spot with the Rams

His time with the Eagles was brief, but it was a launching point for Amendola’s career. Not only did he grow as a receiver, but he also made an impression on the guy who would get Amendola his first shot at a roster spot: Pat Shurmur.

Shurmur was the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia when Amendola was brought on during the team’s playoff run. After Shurmur was hired as the Rams’ offensive coordinator, they signed Amendola off of the Eagles’ practice squad on Sept. 22, 2009.

Amendola started just two games in 2009, but proved his value as a return specialist with 1,618 yards on 66 returns. He started six games at receiver for the Rams in 2010, racking up a respectable 689 yards and three touchdowns.

He missed most of the 2011 season with an upper arm injury, but he made another invaluable connection with the Rams’ offensive coordinator at the time: Josh McDaniels, who has spent the last six seasons as the Patriots’ OC. Amendola had a productive 2012, finishing with 666 yards and three touchdowns.

Now he’s a key member of the Patriots’ dynasty

Amendola spent four seasons overall with the Rams before signing with the Patriots as Wes Welker’s replacement before the 2013 season.

He’s been a reliable target for Tom Brady since. In 2017, he put together his best season in a New England jersey yet, recording 61 catches for 659 yards. But what Amendola is most known for is how he steps up his game when the playoffs roll around. His teammates even have a nickname for him: Danny “Playoff” Amendola.

The Pats have needed him, with Julian Edelman out for the season and Rob Gronkowski leaving the AFC Championship with a concussion. In two playoff games this year, Amendola has been Brady’s top weapon with 18 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns.

You can credit the Eagles, in part, for the way Amendola approaches the game.

Amendola said his time on the practice squad with the Eagles was like “grad school” for a young receiver.

“But I was thankful for the opportunity because I met some great people and for me, it was really beneficial because I got to relate a second offense I learned in the NFL to the first one, and I could kind of understand how the plays are called, my specific job on each play, my role. It was a learning experience for me,” Amendola said, via Reiss.

It didn’t work out for Amendola with the Eagles, but when he faces his former team in the Super Bowl this year, he can be grateful for what he built out of that experience.