Former Redhawks standout eager to get first taste of NFL playoffs

Friday, January 4, 2008

Eugene Amano started the last two games for the Titans.

It's exciting enough for Eugene Amano that he's about to participate in his first National Football League playoff game.

The fact the contest will come in his hometown makes the situation even sweeter.

Amano, a former Southeast Missouri State All-American, is having the most productive season of his four-year NFL career.

Sunday afternoon, he'll get his first taste of postseason action when his Tennessee Titans visit the San Diego Chargers in an AFC wild card game.

"I'm definitely excited to be in the playoffs for the first time and to get to go back to my hometown," said Amano, who is from San Diego. "I'll have a lot of family and friends. ... They're all real excited."

Amano, a versatile offensive lineman, has played several positions for the Titans since making their squad as a seventh-round draft choice.

He spent most of his first three NFL seasons on special teams and as a backup at guard and center. He played in all but one of Tennessee's games (47 total) and made three starts during that span.

Amano began this year again serving as a backup, as he saw action in the first nine games off the bench.

But injuries to several teammates helped the 6 foot 3, 310-pound Amano earn the most starts of his pro career.

Amano started at right guard because of an injury in Tennessee's 10th game. He also started at that position in the team's next two contests.

The Titans' 13th game saw Amano play left guard off the bench, then the next game he saw action at center off the bench.

An injury to Tennessee's regular center made Amano the starter at that spot for the final two games.

"It's been nice to start as much as I have lately," said Amano, who was a four-year starter at Southeast from 2000 through 2003 under former coach Tim Billings. "I've been bouncing around at both guard spots, then center.

"It's been fun showing what I can do in my fourth year."

Amano said during Wednesday's telephone interview that he is not certain if he'll be in Sunday's starting lineup, although either way he figures to receive his share of playing time.

"I'm not sure [about starting], but I always practice like I'm going to start," he said.

Regardless, Amano said he and his teammates are relishing the Titans' first playoff appearance since the 2003 season.

"It's been a real good season," said Amano, who was named the nation's top Division I-AA center as a Southeast senior in 2003. "We're a young team and we're learning how to win."

Even though Tennessee is rated as more than a touchdown underdog to the potent Chargers, Amano warned against discounting the Titans.

When the teams met Dec. 9 in Nashville, Tenn., the Titans (10-6) held a 17-3 fourth-quarter lead before the Chargers (11-5) rallied for a 23-17 overtime victory.

"It was a real physical game and we played them well," Amano said. "We're going to try and finish this time."

Other Southeast products

Two other former Southeast All-Americans recently concluded NFL regular seasons for teams that did not make the playoffs.

* Edgar Jones, a rookie linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, was inactive for the first 12 games, but saw action off the bench in the final four games. He had three tackles and one sack.

Jones played at Southeast from 2003 through 2006 and was an All-American defensive end as a senior, when he led the nation in sacks. He made the Ravens as an undrafted free agent.

* Dimitri Patterson, a cornerback for the Kansas City Chiefs, played in 13 games, all off the bench. He had 12 tackles.

Patterson played at Southeast from 2001 through 2003 -- he was an All-American as a junior -- before transferring to Division II Tuskegee in Alabama for his final season.

Patterson wasn't drafted, but made the Washington Redskins in 2005 as a free agent. He played in three games and had an interception.

Patterson spent 2006 on the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad before making the Chiefs' roster this season.

* One other Southeast product, offensive lineman Dan Connolly, is with the undefeated New England Patriots organization as a member of the practice squad and is not allowed to participate in games.

Connolly, a four-year starter at Southeast from 2001 through 2004, made the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2005.

He saw limited action that season before spending the entire 2006 campaign on injured reserve.

After being released by the Jaguars before this season, Connolly was signed to the Patriots' practice squad.

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