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True Grit: Super Bowl XLII Showcases Athletes with Toughness, Perseverance

By Sean Jensen, 02/02/18, 10:15PM CST

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Several Patriots, Eagles are shining examples of the word grit

In 2016, psychologist Angela Duckworth popularized a word all parents want to instill in their children. In her first book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” Duckworth shares why grit is more important than talent.

As the parent of two, I naturally try to shield my children from pain, struggle and even fear. But the truth is, I cannot overprotect them because, inevitably, they will face adversity.

Every problem I solve for them, excuse I make for them and delusion I pass on to them does them a disservice to prepare for a real world that won’t coddle and entitle them.

In 2016, psychologist Angela Duckworth popularized a word all parents want to instill in their children. In her first book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” Duckworth shares why grit is more important than talent.

In another chaotic and exciting NFL season, two teams overcame much to vie for a championship, and Super Bowl XLII showcases several athletes who are shining examples of that word, not through what they say but what they’ve done.

Here are a few examples:

DANNY AMENDOLA, PATRIOTS RECEIVER

After catching 109 passes his senior year at Texas Tech, Amendola was considered too small (5 foot 10) and too slow (he ran a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine) to thrive in the NFL. He wasn’t drafted by any team, and he battled his way onto the Dallas Cowboys practice squad for the 2008 season.

The Philadelphia Eagles signed him onto their practice squad in 2009, and he didn’t play in his first NFL game until late September with the St. Louis Rams. Despite a few promising seasons with the Rams — including in 2010, when he caught 85 passes for 689 yards and three touchdowns — Amendola signed a modest contract with the Patriots.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick credited offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for pushing the club to sign Amendola.

“The guy, he’s a great football player, and he does a lot of things well,” said McDaniels, who coached Amendola with the Rams. “He’s tough, he always makes an impact when he’s in there … There’s nothing I don’t love about Danny Amendola.”

Though never a go-to player, Amendola has been consistent and reliable for the Patriots, reinforcing his importance after receiver Julian Edelman suffered a season-ending injury in October. Amendola stepped up during the regular season and postseason, catching seven passes for 84 yards in the AFC Championship game, including the game-winner.

“It was definitely difficult,” Amendola said of the challenges he’s faced. “But I always believed in myself and thought I could do it. I put a lot of hard work in, been lucky and definitely been blessed.

"I’m very thankful for the opportunity to play here and expand my role … and try to do more. That’s been my attitude.”
 

Nick Foles, Eagles quarterback

Foles earned a Pro Bowl spot with the Eagles … but that seemed a lifetime ago. In 2013, in his second season with the Eagles, Foles tossed 27 touchdowns and was picked off just twice. In the Pro Bowl, Foles was named the Offensive MVP award, winning a new pickup truck in the process.

But after a challenged 2014 season, Foles was traded to the St. Louis Rams, where he posted a less-than-stellar season before the club selected Jared Goff with the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. After a season in Kansas City as a backup, Foles returned to the Eagles for the 2017 season to back up Carson Wentz.

Wentz played like an MVP before he suffered a major knee injury and was lost for the season. Foles stepped in and led the Eagles to a 4-1 record, including playoff victories over the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings.

Against the Vikings, with the Eagles an underdog at home, Foles completed 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-7 win.

“In sports, everything’s a process, and you can’t give up,” Foles told ESPN. “You just have to keep working. You’re not going to always have a great day. You should never get down. You should always learn from those experiences and look forward to working through them. Because that’s the beautiful thing, when you look back at the journey and you realize that it wasn’t always great.

“There were bumps in the road, but you were able to overcome them with the help of the people around you, the people that believe in you and love you,” Foles added. “That’s a special thing, and that’s what’s so special about a moment like this, because you have an opportunity to reflect and be grateful.”
 

Dion Lewis, Patriots running back

Lewis has the distinction of having played for both Super Bowl teams.

Originally drafted in the fifth round by the Eagles in the 2011 NFL Draft, Lewis played sparingly in his only two seasons with the club, primarily serving as a kickoff returner. In April 2013, he was traded to the Cleveland Browns but missed the entire season with a broken leg.

He eventually signed with the Indianapolis Colts but was quickly released, not landing on any club’s roster for the rest of the 2014 season.

Then the Patriots picked him when the 2014 regular season officially ended, signing him to a future/reserve contract.

“There were days that I was down on myself,” Lewis said, “but I kept trying to stay positive and kept working.”

He played well for the Patriots, starting six games and averaging nearly five yards per run and scoring four touchdowns. A regular contributor throughout this season, Lewis leads the team with 101 rushing yards this postseason, including an 18-yard run late against the Jaguars.

Lewis is thankful to be here, with a chance to win a Super Bowl ring.

“Before playing here, I never even made the playoffs,” he said, “so I definitely want to embrace this and enjoy this.

“It means a lot to be here, with this opportunity. I’m extremely grateful,” he added. “I want to go out and play as hard as I can, and everything else will take care of itself.”

Asked what he thinks about when things are particularly challenging, Lewis said, “It’s very hard.

“But I kept working hard and believing in myself,” he added. “You can do anything you put your mind to — I truly believe that.”

About Sean Jensen

Sean Jensen was born in South Korea, but he was raised in California, Massachusetts and Virginia, mostly on or near military bases. Given his unique background, he's always been drawn to storytelling, a skill he developed at Northwestern University and crafted for the last 16 years, almost exclusively covering the NFL. Sean lives in a Minneapolis suburb with his wife, two children and dog. Read more

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