BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Roughly 20 years ago, Chad O’Shea was at the University of Houston, first as a backup quarterback, and then as a young coach.
The Cougars, of course, held camps for area players, and the young son of a local high school coach got an invite.
Willie Amendola’s son, Danny, was 10 or 11 at the time.
“We stuck him in a group of high school-aged kids that were a lot older than him, obviously, that were bigger, they were stronger and they were faster,” O’Shea recalled on Wednesday, during the New England Patriots media session in advance of Super Bowl LII. “At the end of the camp we had to award a ‘best receiver’ to the group, and Danny was in that group and he got best receiver out of that whole group.
“I still remember, he was the smallest, scrawniest kid out there but he caught the ball and was competitive and tough, just like he is now. Years later, we both still have vivid memories of that camp, at least I do, and I still look back and think it’s an amazing thing that I had him in a camp as a young person, and now here he is, we’re going on our third Super Bowl together.”
O’Shea isn’t the only one who has memories of that camp.
“I remember he was commenting on my footwork; we were doing some drills and he offered me a fake scholarship. But I was really excited, I was like, ‘daddy, I got an offer!’,” Amendola said. “I really didn’t get an offer.
“And I remember my rookie season I was with the Cowboys, we were playing the Vikings, he was the receivers coach there and I went up to him and said, ‘hey coach, I don’t know if you remember me,’ not thinking that I would ever play for him or ever really see him again. I really appreciated what he had done for me then and our relationship has really grown since, and he’s a close friend of mine.”
O’Shea is 45-years-old now, the high-energy receivers coach for the New England Patriots. But he may not hold that job much longer.
With offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels headed to the Indianapolis Colts as their new head coach, the Patriots need a new coordinator. In his time as New England’s head coach, Bill Belichick has almost always promoted from within, even if the promotion isn’t “official” right away – a new coordinator gets the job of calling plays and running his unit, but will have help from Belichick in game-planning, and it won’t show up on something like the team website as he grows into the new role.
A Houston native, O’Shea’s resume looks a lot like those of other coaches: after four seasons at his alma mater, he moved on to Southern Mississippi for three years.
Then came his move to the NFL. His first year, with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2003, he’s listed as a volunteer assistant, but was a special teams assistant for the two years after.
A move to the Minnesota Vikings followed, where he wore several hats in three years, and in 2009 O’Shea was hired by Belichick to coach the Patriots’ receivers.
“He’s the best,” said Amendola, who signed with New England in 2013. “He makes it fun every day to come to work. He demands a lot from us, and he’s a great coach.”
Both Amendola and Brandin Cooks mentioned O’Shea’s energy, “the kind of stuff that kills me,” joked running backs coach Ivan Fears, who is 18 years older than O’Shea.
“I think that when you have the opportunity to coach the guys that I do, it brings out energy in yourself. I really believe that,” O’Shea said. “They’re really a special group, and it’s easy to have energy when you’re around those guys on a daily basis, it’s really contagious, and it works both ways. I feel like that I feed off their energy and hopefully that they do the same with me.”
“You don’t have to worry about Chad getting fired up for practice or with games or meetings; he’s got that juice going, and I just think that’s natural for him,” Fears said. “I just see that as a guy that loves what he’s doing. Really loves what he’s doing, loves where he’s at, and is really comfortable and enjoys getting to work.”
During the preseason, the Patriots lost their most productive receiver when Julian Edelman suffered a torn ACL in an exhibition against Detroit, and Malcolm Mitchell, who had a strong rookie season last year, has not played this season due to injury either.
That, of course, meant O’Shea and his charges had to adjust.
“It was a set of circumstances that were challenging,” he said. “But in the end, the most rewarding thing is that we overcame the adversity as a group and were able to really be successful and use the players in ways that best suited their skill sets and really we focused on what they do best to help us and not what we can’t do or what we were missing.”
He’s never coached quarterbacks or run an offense – in New England, the two are paired – but that doesn’t mean O’Shea isn’t able to take on the job.
“Oh, I definitely think so. I sure hope he has a shot, I really do,” Fears said. “I think it’s time for him to step into that, no doubt about it. I do know if anybody is capable doing the job, he is.”
In typical Patriots fashion, however, O’Shea said he’s only worried about making sure he and his players are ready to face the Eagles.
“The best thing we’ve done here is all stay in the moment; we really have,” he said. “And my job is to coach the receivers this week, and whatever Bill asks me to do, whether it’s today, tomorrow, in the future, I’m going to do that and do it to the best of my abilities.”