As he approaches the boundary, Danny Amendola cuts sharp to the inside. He slithers his way through traffic, keenly aware of the obstacles in front of him. His teammate, Julian Edelman, surges through a gap just ahead of him, and Amendola follows through the rapidly closing hole. He's almost tripped up—a potential disaster—but keeps his balance, and just when it looks like he's in the clear, Amendola angles left to avoid one last stumbling block: a yellow taxi cutting in front him.
The two receivers are fresh off the most stunning Super Bowl comeback in NFL history, helping to erase a 28-3 third-quarter deficit against the Atlanta Falcons and thereby cementing themselves as New England sporting legends. But that was months ago.
Today, the pair are skateboarding through Boston, enjoying the spring weather and the relative obscurity provided by a fast-moving skateboard. It's a hobby they keep throughout the off-season back in California, where they both live during the blissful months between Super Bowl and training camp.
For Amendola, perhaps the only thing less traditional than his off-season "training" activities is the route the veteran receiver took to NFL success. An undrafted free agent, the 5'11", 188-pound Amendola started his career on the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad and bounced around the league before finding a home in New England.
Now a two-time Super Bowl champ with the Patriots, Amendola recently agreed to a pay cut for the third straight year, all in an effort to stay with the franchise that has set the gold standard for success in professional football. Maxim caught up with the Texas-born wideout to discuss what it takes to thrive in the league, how he stays in shape year-round, and life with Gronk.
You've played for multiple NFL teams. What's different about the Patriots that makes the franchise so uniquely successful?
The success of the New England Patriots is based on a blue-collar mentality. It's a mind-set that Coach [Bill Belichick] has instilled in players for more than a decade. There is no secret to the success of the team—merely hard work and doing the drills and developing an everyday work ethic that some others may not be willing to do, in the snow and the rain. And Tom Brady.
Is Coach Belichick always so serious?
Bill is always serious. Unless you're at a winning Super Bowl after-party. Then he smiles.
How does a character like star tight end Rob Gronkowski fit into the business-like atmosphere of the team?
Gronk is one of the best teammates and best football players ever to walk the earth. He's our heart and soul when he's on the field, and he's the hardest to defend. His football IQ is off the charts, and his athletic ability compares to that of LeBron or Messi. His ability to take over is comical to watch when he's running by you on the field. He makes grown men quit.
You entered the league as an undrafted free agent. Has that left a chip on your shoulder during your career?
Being undrafted isn't the reason why I have a chip on my shoulder. I find new reasons every day, every year, and throughout my whole career to play hard. I play for my family and my friends. My chip is much bigger than anything the league or the color of my jersey could put on my shoulders. I play to win.
You guys were down 25 points to the Falcons in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. What was going on in your mind before the historic comeback?
We always knew we had a chance in the Super Bowl if there was enough time. A good portion of that team had played together in tight games and knew what we all were capable of doing. We had been training for that moment all year.
NFL players get paid not just for Sundays but for all the work that goes on between games as well. What goes into keeping your body in top form during the season?
The workouts and body maintenance are part of a daily routine that's always changing. It's a constant process around the clock, and the older you get, the harder it is. Getting more mature and smarter allows me to take better care of myself. Your body is a machine and every little thing counts. I enjoy working out every day. I'm comfortable being uncomfortable. I also believe that it's very important to eat many, many Sour Patch Kids.
What about during the off-season? Other than skateboarding.
My off-season work is simple. I've had the same formula since I was a young kid, with a few minor alterations as I've aged: Work out. Run. Run routes. Then hit the beach by noon—Manhattan Beach, preferably.
Is it easier to stay motivated in the off-season after a championship or a playoff loss?
Staying motivated after winning a Super Bowl is easy: Everyone wants to kill you.
Is there anything you can't do because of contractual limitations that you really want to try?
Nothing prohibits me contractually. I've been skydiving and surfing. Love riding motorcycles and playing basketball. No limitations. I love to have fun. The only person that tells me to chill is my girl or my quarterback.
What do you wish the average fan better understood about what it takes for you and your teammates to go out and perform each week?
I wish the average football fan knew how much we run every day—it's miles and miles of sprinting against the top athletes in the world, Monday to Friday. It seems all they want to talk about is fantasy football numbers and targets and catches. How about this: Go outside and try to keep up with the cars on the highway until you puke. And then do it again. And again. And again. Day after day. And then I'll have your grade. I agree that they pay us well, but that's why we do it and you don't.