NFL News: New York Jets Rookie TE Jace Amaro Talks Texas Childhood, Upcoming Rookie Year
Jace Amaro is living a dream, preparing for his rookie campaign in the National Football League (NFL) after being taken in the second round, 49th overall, of the 2014 NFL draft by the New York Jets.
Of Spanish and Mexican descent, Amaro, a highly recruited tight end coming out of Douglas MacArthur High School, attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, where he played three years of football, breaking the NCAA record for receiving yards and receiving yards per game for a tight end, catching 106 passes for 1,352 yards last season for the Red Raiders.
Those were remarkable stats, especially for a man whose sport of choice growing up wasn't football.
"In my childhood, I never really played football. Before that, I was playing basketball and I was a soccer guy -- baseball too," Amaro, told LatinPost.com in an interview this week. "It was in high school where I really picked it up ... and it really became a big part of my life just playing high school ball, getting a feeling fighting for a school and it starts mattering to you."
Amaro's natural talents gave him options for college, such as the University of Notre Dame, but he chose Texas Tech, having grown up not just a fan of college football, but also an admirer of the Red Raiders' program.
"Both my parents went to Texas Tech," says Amaro. "I grew up a fan, so it was very hard to turn my cheek the other way. I checked other schools, but I couldn't turn away the opportunity to play for the university I grew up watching."
Amaro had a knack for getting open at Texas Tech not only in head coach Kliff Kingsbury's fast-paced offense, but also overall, making the All-Big 12 Conference First Team in 2012 and 2013, winning All-American honors in 2013, winning the 2013 College Football Performance Award (CFPA) for tight end of the year, and ending his prolific, recording-breaking junior year as a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to college football's most outstanding receiver.
During Jets minicamp, the coaching staff has had him line up at both the tight end and wide receiver positions, giving quarterbacks -- whether Michael Vick or Geno Smith is under center -- a diverse weapon to play with in their vertical game.
"He's lined up everywhere," Jets tight end coach Steve Hagen tells The Star Ledger. "He's lined up flexed out, hand down, out by himself (on the) single-receiver side, on the three-receiver side, on the two-receiver side. We use him everywhere we can use him. So we have asked him to do a lot, and we expect him to do a lot. He's asking that of himself, and he's delivering, too. It's been fun to watch him."
Playing at such a high level in a powerhouse college football conference, such as the Big 12, will be a huge boon for Amaro as he transitions into the next phase of his career with the New York Jets, who desperately need a scoring punch after they struggled moving the ball last year.
"It's one of the better conferences in college," says Amaro. "There's always tough games every single week. There are some pretty good names there, and with that, it's not like you are playing nobodies. I played against some of the better competition and had some successful seasons. I think that should really translate well and help me quickly."
Amaro credits current Denver Bronco and former Red Raider wide receiver Wes Welker with helping him learn tricks of the trade: Amaro got to pick Welker's brain for advice on improving his skill set.
"I didn't really watch a lot of NFL; I was more of a college guy. I watched Tech a lot, and one guy I [watched a] lot every single week was Wes Welker," says Amaro. "Growing up, watching him play at Tech and watching him in New England the last couple of years, and training with him, working out with him, that really helped me out a lot, from college up until here and now. Thanks to his help, I definitely did some things that I probably could not have done without him the last couple of years."
One adjustment Amaro may have to make with no frame of reference is dealing with the intense spotlight in a sports-fanatic town like New York City -- whose media and fan base demand nothing less than a championship. New York is even more intense than Texas, where football is a religion to many.
"There is no way to prepare for that when you are at Tech; [New York] is the biggest media market in the whole world," says Amaro. "It's really [just] not saying much and delivering on the field. That's the way I've always been. I'm not very big on the politics or anything if I can't do them. Of course it's going to be a new thing for me coming from Lubbock -- there is nothing compared to that, so it's a huge difference -- but I'll certainly be fine with that."
Having played the other futbol, as well as American football, Amaro is keeping an eye on the World Cup as he embarks on a new phase of his career.
"I like a lot of teams. I really [like] Portugal. I think that everyone really likes [Cristiano] Ronaldo," says Amaro. "I really like ... players [more] than teams. I'm just cheering [my favorites] on, and it should be fun to watch."
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