Danny Amendola and the NFL's 10 Best Feel-Good Stories of 2010
How many of you thought you'd hear that name tossed around NFL circles this season?
Anybody? (Put your hand down. Now.)
That's right. Nobody did. Except maybe him.
It's stories like his that make us all believe that we can do great things.
So what if he plays for the Rams, right?
These are the types of stories that inspire us—athletes that step up when no one else thinks they can.
Danny Amendola isn't the only one this year in the NFL.
1. Danny Amendola Becomes Rams' Go-To Guy
Maybe this was supposed to be Mark Clayton here.
Obviously it wasn't meant to be, though, after Clayton got hurt last Sunday.
But many forget that Amendola has been the go-to guy before: back in college at Texas Tech.
In his senior year, Amendola eclipsed the century mark in receptions in Lubbock for the high-flying Red Raiders.
Sound familiar? (Hint: Another guy has a similar story. His name is Wes Welker.)
Amendola is now tied for fourth in the NFL in receptions with 33.
Again, keep in mind he is playing for the Rams, who are low on offensive weapons and have a rookie QB (no matter how good he is).
That makes what he's done this year extremely impressive.
P.S. Go get him in fantasy football.
2. Brandon Lloyd Becomes a Star in Denver
Maybe "star" is a bit too much.
But anyone who leads the NFL in receiving yards with 589 on just 30 catches has a right to one moment in the sun, right?
To be honest, it's maybe just as or more surprising that it's not Tom Brady or Peyton Manning throwing him the ball either.
It's Kyle Orton, who's not known for his arm.
But let's not forget about all that Lloyd has been through to get to this point.
At one point in time, after a couple of quietly good seasons in San Fran, Lloyd was the next big name receiver to come along.
So, of all teams, the Redskins took a chance on him.
It did not work out. At all.
So Lloyd became an afterthought. Even this season, after the departure of Brandon Marshall, it was Eddie Royal that was supposed to benefit. Or Demaryius Thomas.
Someone forgot to tell Lloyd.
3. Arian Foster Is the Top Rusher in the NFL
Not AP. Not MJD. Not Ray Rice.
It's Arian Foster who leads the league in rushing.
Not only did nobody see this coming, it still seems improbable. After all, he plays for the pass-happy Houston Texans (or at least they were last year).
But he too deserves a look at his background.
He was once an interesting prospect coming out of Tennessee. As a Volunteer, he did well between the tackles but never made a huge impression while at school.
Still, he, I'm sure, expected to be drafted.
That, as I'm sure you're aware, didn't happen. The Texans took a chance on him and signed him to their practice squad.
Then a door opened.
Injuries to Steve Slaton and pretty much every other Texans running back allowed Foster to make a few starts at the end of last season.
But it didn't seem to matter. In the offseason, the Texans drafted Ben Tate from Auburn. Word was that he would split carries with Foster.
But like Slaton, Tate was injured. Foster once again had his chance.
And he ran with it. Literally.
4. Kansas City: The Last Undefeated Team
I would've said it would be Indianapolis. Or the Jets. Or the Ravens. Or the Packers maybe.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong and wrong.
The last undefeated team (before last week, obviously)?
The Kansas City Chiefs.
Many want to dismiss them with their weak schedule.
You go ahead, but the way they played against the Colts last week proved they are for real.
In fact, one could say the only team that beat them last Sunday was the Chiefs (or maybe just Dwayne Bowe).
This is a young, exciting team that has true weapons on offense and up-and-coming playmakers on defense.
With the up and down nature of the other teams of the AFC West, it could be the Chiefs, after several rough years, who win the division.
5. The Old LT?
You have to admit you didn't see this coming.
My first thought when the Chargers let go of Tomlinson in the offseason was that he was finished as a No. 1 guy in this league.
Shows how much I know.
With the move to the Jets, some suggested he could be a great change of pace back at least. After all, this was supposed to be Shonn Greene's year.
Tomlinson was "supposed" to be the third down back the Jets lacked last year.
Instead, Tomlinson has taken the reins from the young Greene and has looked a bit like the LT from just a few years ago.
Will it last? Maybe not. But Tomlinson fans (and there are many of them) like seeing LT back to being himself.
6. Who Invited Peyton to the Party?
No, not Peyton Manning.
You know, Peyton Hillis? No?
Not too many people outside of hardcore NFL fans and Denver Broncos fans knew the name going into this season, but the one-time fullback had a few good games in 2008 as a rookie with Denver (after being selected in the seventh round, no less).
Originally slotted to be a fullback, Hillis became a halfback hybrid by necessity when the Broncos suffered many injuries that year.
Well, the Browns must have liked what they saw and acquired him in the offseason.
Still, he seemed to be buried behind James Harrison and rookie Montario Hardesty on the depth chart.
But when Hardesty was injured in the preseason, Hillis got his chance. Even bigger than that, perhaps, was the uninspiring play of Harrison.
Even then, however, no one saw what was coming in Week 3 for Hillis.
Against the Baltimore Ravens, no less, Hillis ran for 144 yards on just 22 carries.
Is this the second coming of Mike Alstott?
7. To the Max
You want to know the last time an undrafted quarterback started as early as Week 5?
Jim Zorn. 1976 for the Seattle Seahawks.
And now Max Hall.
Hall, who was not wanted by any of the 32 NFL teams in April, took advantage of a mixed-up QB situation in Arizona to make his NFL debut last Sunday.
Just one problem. It was against the reigning champions, the Saints.
Somebody didn't tell him that apparently.
Not that he had a great game, but in a way, he outplayed Drew Brees by not making mistakes and helping the Cards control the clock when they needed to.
And so, in his first NFL start, the undrafted rookie from BYU took down the Saints for his first W as a starter.
Welcome to the NFL, kid.
8. Like Father, Like Son
Clay Matthews. A great name that many who have been around the NFL for years know.
Now guess who leads the league in sacks?
Clay Matthews—the third, that is.
Now, maybe this would've been an even better story had he played for the Browns or Falcons.
Still, it's not very often you see a football family last in any pro sport.
But Matthews' story is not one of ease. He had to walk on to USC after being undersized in high school.
He made the team, obviously, and the rest is history.
It's all in the family, as they say.
9. Who the Heck Is Danny Woodhead?
Admit it. You've asked someone that question.
When the Patriots encountered some serious injury issues earlier this season, as they have done in the past, they pulled out yet another obscure name.
5'9", 200-lb. Danny Woodhead. From Chadron State.
Yes, that Chadron State.
In a similar situation to what happened with Julian Edelman, Woodhead stepped in for the injured Kevin Faulk and provided the Pats with a few big carries along with some catches out of the backfield.
But let's not forget that Woodhead was cut...from the Jets' practice squad.
Maybe it's just another example of anyone being able to fit in the New England offense, but I choose to be inspired.
I mean, Chadron State? Really?
10. Vick Re-Runs
Maybe this will be a bit controversial, but I choose to be at least a little inspired by what Michael Vick has done this year.
Was he wrong to do what he did in his past?
Absolutely. Without question.
Now he's served his time, and he seems to have grown through the situation.
But what amazes me more than anything is this: How in the world did he become a better quarterback after spending time in jail?
Makes no sense to me.
That's why it's all the more amazing.
I'll admit it, I used to not be able to stand the guy.
But now, I kind of find myself rooting for him to do well.