Clinton Killough was the quarterback. He wore No. 15. Jace Amaro was the tight end. He wore No. 22. And they were magic together until Amaro tore his ACL four games into his junior season.
“When he first tore it, you could hear his reaction, and it was a scream,” Killough recalled Thursday by phone, “and the stadium went silent, and I can still remember that moment. It’s kind of surreal. And I know he probably didn’t know he could come back from that. Sometimes you don’t see the end of the tunnel. He made a decision then just to kind of get back on his feet and come back, and his senior year he came back even better.
“I’ve never seen a kid at that age respond that quick and get back on his feet. “I had no doubt when he had the shoulder surgery this last year that he was gonna come back even better.”
So Thursday night Jace Amaro wages another comeback, this one an NFL comeback with the Jets, a comeback that would open up the middle of the field for Ryan Fitzpatrick, and he won’t be coming back alone, he will be carrying the memory of Tim Killough, his best friend’s father, with him. He tweeted out the following message this week:
Amaro on Tuesday: “I haven’t played in that stadium in so long, over a year and a half now, so it’s gonna be definitely a very surreal feeling again that I’m getting to play in MetLife. wholesale jerseys My best friend’s father passed away, and he was best friends with my dad too, this past summer. It’s just another big reason that’s inspiration for me right now. He wanted to come see me play this year, so it’s just one of those things where I’m excited, and maybe somehow, some way, he’ll be watching anyway.”
Clinton Killough cheers his friend from afar, and makes this guarantee to Jets fans:
“He’s gonna tear it up this year.
“I think the fans of New York, after this year, there’s gonna be a lot more 88 jerseys around.”
Tim Killough died in June at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio following lung surgery. Amaro was at his side the night before he died, and was a pallbearer. His high school quarterback retweeted it.
“It was a shoutout to my pops, and I’m not gonna ignore that,” Killough said. “And Jace can attest to it, man, my dad was one of the most genuine he was the best man I ever knew. He was a Booster Club president, and didn’t have to be. Jace saw that, ’cause his dad did the same thing. He loved Jace because of the type of person he was, whether or not he was healthy catching touchdowns or whatnot.”
The boys have been friends since junior high.
“Very fiery kid,” Clinton recalled of Amaro. “As a young kid he was extremely passionate, and sometimes that passion got the best of him and he let people know. As an aspiring coach, I hope that one day I get to coach a kid with that amount of determination and passion even from a young age.”
They didn’t play together at Texas Tech because Clinton transferred as a freshman to University of the Incarnate Word. “The only other person I would like to compare, and I don’t want to toot my horn, is me, and I think also that’s why we gravitated to each other. Same with our fathers. If Jace needed anything, my dad was there, and vice versa, I know his dad would be there.”
Amaro caught another TD pass from Fitzpatrick on Tuesday, this one in the left corner of the end zone. With Amaro shelved for his sophomore season, Jets tight ends were targeted a pathetic 25 times in 2015 and caught just eight passes.
“It was obviously written about a lot, but our tight end position didn’t have a ton of catches last year,” Fitzpatrick said. “Part of that is just kind of who we’re trying to get the ball and how we’re scheming passes and things, but to be able to have somebody to stretch the field at tight end and make some big catches, would be a great addition for us.”
Music indeed to the ears of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
“You can see the confidence, I think things are slowing down for him this year,” Decker said. “He’s got tremendous speed [4.4 ish] at that position, so as far as spreading the ball out and getting downfield and just working the middle of the field at times, it’s gonna be crucial for us. It allows us receivers on the outside to still have those matchups.”
Amaro, a second round draft choice in 2014, is a sleek 6 foot 6, 258 pounds, down from 275.
“I’m excited about me catching the ball and being able to do things out in the open field,” Amaro said. “I feel like it’s something that can separate me from a lot of the other guys in the league.”
Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey can deploy Amaro as an H back as well. His blocking? “It’s a lot better,” Amaro said.
“Back home when I was training, I didn’t drink any alcohol,” Amaro said. “It was one of those things where I just said, ‘This is the year that I’m putting all the marbles into it.’ I want to play quicker, I want to play faster, I want to play longer than everyone else during the season.”
“Physically, I’ve never seen him in better shape,” Clinton Killough said. “We kind of have a running joke that he’s never been able to really beat me in a 40 yard dash or anything like that. I’m glad that I stopped playing. He’s slimmed down, he’s kind of lost that extra weight.