Danny Amendola is latest Texas Tech tough guy to join Dolphins, following Zach Thomas and Wes Welker

Finally the Miami Dolphins have figured out a way to put the pinch on Tom Brady.

By signing Danny Amendola to a free-agent contract, the Dolphins deny Brady the use of one of his most reliable targets and a key member of the NFL’s top offensive unit.

Can’t call Amendola invaluable, of course. If Bill Belichick thought that term applied to

Former New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) makes a catch between Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Koa Misi (55) and Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Philip Wheeler (52) at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 15, 2013. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

the slot receiver, New England would have outbid Miami for his services. Already, Amendola has taken some $10 million in paycuts the last three offseasons in order to stay with the Patriots.

Think, though, of the toughness Amendola brought to the Patriots’ huddle, and the leadership he will bring to Miami’s locker room. See if any of this fits the new “culture” that the Dolphins and coach Adam Gase want to build, albeit three years late.

Amendola signed with the Patriots just as Wes Welker was leaving them, a demonstration of his willingness to take on a big challenge.

He started only half of the Patriots’ 2017 games but had such a rapport with Brady that he was targeted more times (86) than anyone but Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski.

Amendola caught just two touchdown passes during the 2017 regular season, nothing dramatic, but then he caught two more in the fourth quarter of New England’s comeback win over Jacksonville in the AFC title game. Altogether, in 13 playoffs games with New England he caught six touchdown passes.

What’s more, according to the Boston Herald, Amendola kept on playing through a torn groin in 2013, knee and ankle injuries in 2015.

Not bad for a guy who went undrafted out of Texas Tech after playing there for Mike Leach, one of the most inventive coaches around.

Matter of fact, I’m going to suggest that the Dolphins look to Texas Tech more often in the talent searches of the draft and free agency.

That’s where linebacker Zach Thomas played his college ball on the way to a great Dolphins career that featured seven Pro Bowl selections.

And how about Welker, another Texas Tech star who the Dolphins didn’t really prize until he had left them and, in a New England uniform, transformed himself into the NFL’s leading receiver.

Jakeem Grant, 5-feet-7, is another little hardhead from Texas Tech. He and Amendola will be playing together now in Miami and maybe even sharing time in the slot position, unless Adam Gase decides he only needs one of them.

Will Brady be able to keep his offense moving without Amendola? Of course. He never slows down, no matter who is running the routes.

This addition of Amendola, however, will return to Ryan Tannehill some of the third-down certainty that was lost with the trade of Jarvis Landry to Cleveland for money reasons alone.

This may not work out so well if Amendola, 32, continues to have trouble with a bad knee that’s been bothering him the last few seasons. Can’t blame the Dolphins, though, for taking what Brady wants.

At least make the Patriots work a little harder on their way to the Super Bowl. At least make them do that.

[Not feeling confident about Gators, Canes and Noles in NCAA tourney]

[Justin Thomas’ climb to No. 2 in world gives Honda Classic another boost]

[Marlins’ inaugural spring training 25 years ago was a Space Coast blast]


Prime-time Penn Stater Mike Hull scrapping for one of final few spots with Dolphins

Mike Hull was still in his pads and giving interviews Saturday night as other Miami Dolphins teammates shuffled out of the locker room and headed for home, or wherever else you go after a 13-9 exhibition victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

Hull, a college star but an NFL maybe, is one guy in no hurry to shed his Dolphins gear, whether it’s a torrid day at practice or a nervous full-scale audition under the Sun Life Stadium lights. You see players like this every summer, on the bubble to make the regular-season roster and clawing for credibility.

They can’t all make it. They won’t all make it. Of all there is to love about football, this may be the one thing I consistently hate.

“It’s gonna be close,” Hull said Saturday night, and it must be noted that the linebacker’s honest assessment came despite his delivery of a 1-2 punch on the goal-line that could not be ignored.

On third down at the Miami 1, Hull stepped up to drop Falcons running back Terron Ward, a fellow rookie, for no gain. Then, on fourth down, Hull shot through blockers to sack T.J. Yates. Scoring threat snuffed. Helmet-butting celebration earned, just as it happened so often in college.

We’re only talking about the leading tackler in the Big Ten last year, and the No. 6 tackler all-time at Penn State. Hull was second-team All America as a senior, according to USA Today, and third team in the estimation of the Associated Press.

Wasn’t enough to get him drafted, though. In the robotic analysis of the NFL scouting combine, Hull was judged to have arms that are too short, overall size (6-feet and 237 pounds) that is underwhelming and a fairly common set of athletic skills for prospects at his position.

“I don’t have all the measurables,” Hull said, “but at the same time I’m here now.”

Here and hustling against the odds in search of an entry-level NFL job on special teams. Might have been different without the knee injury that required surgery just before the Pinstripe Bowl, Hull’s final college game, and without the rehab that slowed him down at the NFL combine. When healthy in October Hull piled up 19 tackles and an interception against Ohio State, the eventual national champion.

Coaches don’t want to hear about that stuff at this level, though. They want to see. They want to know, if it comes down to choosing between Zach Vigil and Hull, or possibly keeping both, that there’s some real staying power there, and hopefully even enough production to push a former middle-round draft pick like Jordan Tripp.

The sentimental journeys that fans are so eager to make, lumping rookies like these in with Zach Thomas and Nick Buoniconti and other undersized inside linebackers who shined for Miami, they don’t change the truth of training camp.

Hull, one of four undrafted rookies signed by Miami in May, knows that. So does Vigil, who went from a walk-on at Utah State to the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.

Both should play a lot in Miami’s final preseason game Thursday night against Tampa Bay. That’s the good news, and so is the fact that linebacker is one of the Dolphins’ thinnest and most needy units. Otherwise, it’s no excuses, no sympathy when September rolls around.

It was the same for Hull’s father Tom, who also played linebacker at Penn State and got drafted by the 49ers in the 12th and final round of the marathon 1974 draft. His NFL career went by in a flash, ending long before Mike was born.

“I think this (Atlanta) game helped,” Mike Hull said when asked to rate his own chances.

Mind over measurables, that’s how Hull makes this team. Not up to me, of course. That’s the numbing numbers game Joe Philbin and his staff must play. That’s NFL cut week at its bloodiest.