Tom Brady has been answering questions about wife Gisele Bündchen at Super Bowl media day for years, but he wasn’t the only Patriots player getting asked about his significant other Monday.
Wide receiver Danny Amendola is dating former Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo. So when reporters weren’t asking about Amendola’s postseason heroics, they were grilling him about being part of New England’s new “it couple.”
“It’s never been about a competition or anything, but she’s a great girl,” Amendola said, smiling ear to ear, surrounded by a cluster of cameras and microphones at Xcel Energy Center.
Culpo routinely celebrates Amendola’s achievements on social media. She tweeted a picture of the two of them kissing on the Gillette Stadium Field after he caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to defeat the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game.
All of New England wants to wrap Amendola in a hug these days, the way he keeps making plays just when the Patriots need them.
Amendola is no fantasy football star. His regular-season numbers have been fairly pedestrian for the Patriots, with only 12 touchdowns in five years. But there’s a reason teammate Rob Gronkowski calls him: “Danny Playoff Amendola.”
Amendola has been Brady’s most dependable target during some storybook comebacks, including the Patriots’ past two Super Bowls.
“Danny is everything our team is about,” Brady said. “Danny never makes excuses, does everything Coach asks him to do, comes out, shows up to work every day with a great attitude. … He makes the biggest plays in the biggest games.”
A 5-11, 190-pound Texas native, Amendola seems to appreciate every moment because none of this was preordained.
He went undrafted coming out of Texas Tech, just as former Patriots slot receiver Wes Welker did. Amendola, 32, spent one year on the Cowboys practice squad, and one year doing the same for the Eagles.
All those months toiling away, never appearing in an actual NFL game left an imprint, and now the Patriots will be playing the Eagles in the Super Bowl.
A friend tracked down a green Eagles jersey — with Amendola’s name and No. 11 — and Amendola had it framed. That’s Carson Wentz’s number now, but it has special meaning to Amendola, too.
“Just to realize, you’ve come a long way, one,” Amendola said. “And two, they cut you. … I understand the ways of the business, and that’s something I learned there, and that’s created a chip on my shoulder.”
Amendola’s career took flight in 2009, after he signed as a free agent with the Rams. He spent his first two years in St. Louis with Pat Shurmur, who was the Rams offensive coordinator before eventually moving to the Vikings and now the Giants, as a head coach.
“I loved playing for him, and I tell him that every time I see him,” Amendola said. “I learned a lot from him.”
Josh McDaniels replaced Shurmur as the Rams’ offensive coordinator and spent one season in St. Louis before returning to New England. McDaniels is the one who recommended that the Patriots sign Amendola in 2013.
“Really, the light went on with Josh [McDaniels],” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “… You saw a good player in St. Louis, but you didn’t see all the things behind the scenes. Josh saw that, and he made us aware of all the things that Danny does.”
As soon a Welker left for Denver as a free agent, New England signed Amendola to a five-year, $28.5 million contract. Amendola hasn’t turned in Welker-type numbers, but he’s delivered plenty of clutch postseason plays. Culpo approves.
“She’s a very sweet girl,” Brady said. “And they make a great couple.”