OAK RIDGE NORTH — Mark Schmid and Danny Amendola, who helped The Woodlands reach its first-ever state title game appearance in 2003, are entering new chapters of their careers at the same time.
Schmid was the offensive coordinator under Weldon Willig when Amendola was a star receiver for the program and later became the head coach for 14 seasons. Now, after a one-year hiatus from the high school ranks, Schmid is back in the profession as the head coach at Oak Ridge.
Amendola is also getting a fresh start, entering his first season with the Detroit Lions after signing a one-year deal worth $4.5 million back in March. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound receiver has played 10 years in the league thus far and won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.
While Amendola, 33, is now an accomplished NFL veteran, his path has certainly included some challenges that he had to overcome. He was undrafted out of college despite a standout career at Texas Tech and has also dealt with some injuries over the years. His resolve, however, always brought him back on track.
“He’s always worked extremely hard, even in high school,” Schmid said on Thursday afternoon before heading out to practice with the War Eagles. “That’s just who he was. Even though he was a little guy in high school — and he’s still a little guy in the NFL — it didn’t matter to him. He was going to overcome any of his physical shortcomings with hard work and just a tenacious mindset.”
Amendola joined his new team after playing one season for the Miami Dolphins. He spent his first four professional campaigns with the Rams and then played five years with the Patriots, where he became a key playoff contributor.
Amendola played 15 games for the Dolphins last year, finishing with 59 catches for 575 yards and one touchdown. He has more than 4,600 yards and 20 scores during his career and has been a standout in the postseason with six touchdowns in 13 career playoff games, all with the Patriots.
“Nothing he does surprises me — nothing,” Schmid said. “The fact that he’s been in the league this long, it doesn’t surprise me. The fact that he’s gone from one team to the next and been a contributor at every stop he’s been doesn’t surprise me because that’s who he is. He’s a fierce competitor. He’s always been a kid who knew he could do whatever he put his mind to.”
Amendola is back in his old stomping grounds week as the Lions take on the Texans in the team’s second preseason game. Schmid won’t be in attendance at NRG Stadium on Saturday since Oak Ridge will play its first scrimmage against Alvin the same night, but he has been tracking the career of his former protégé and continues to root for him.
Amendola has been nursing an injury during training camp, so there is a chance he will not play against the Texans. Whether he suits up or not, the former Highlander has certainly made plenty of people from The Woodlands proud. Amendola is the all-time leading receiver for the program (2,587 yards) and came back to the school to commemorate The Super Bowl High School Honor Roll in 2016.
“It makes you proud that you’ve been able to be around a guy like that as a coach,” Schmid said. “I know all of us who had the opportunity to be around him have used him as examples within our program with our kids. We’ve been able to share who he was as a kid, his work ethic — all of that to try to get them to believe in themselves and not pace limits on themselves and have confidence in what they’re doing. It’s been rewarding.”