FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- They met at the "Quality Italian" in New York, ordered chicken parm, and talked for hours about their connection across two different NFL eras -- the gutsy, undersized slot receiver thriving in a big man's game. Their motto, as Danny Amendola of the New England Patriots tweeted, is as straightforward as their style of play on the field: "Across the middle till the day we die."
Amendola and teammate Julian Edelman came to see the man they call "The Godfather" of all slots, longtime New York Jets great Wayne Chrebet. Now 42 and having last played in 2005, Chrebet couldn't have been more flattered.
"We sat at dinner, talked about how we ran our routes, different releases, things we've seen," Chrebet relayed in an interview with ESPN.com. "It's interesting how not much has changed running routes in the slot."
The 5-foot-10, 188-pound Chrebet played for the Jets from 1995 to 2005, elevating from undrafted longshot out of Hofstra to a member of the franchise's esteemed Ring of Honor after totaling 580 receptions for 7,365 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Amendola and Edelman, who are both 30 and are quarterback Tom Brady's top two trusted receivers, have similar underdog stories. Amendola entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech and was cut by two teams (Cowboys, Eagles) before emerging in St. Louis. Edelman was a seventh-round draft choice of the Patriots in 2009 who transitioned from college quarterback to NFL receiver and was considered an injury-prone project until his fifth NFL season.
"The respect at that table was mutual," Chrebet said of their dinner meeting. "I was as interested in what they had to say how they ran the routes as how I ran it. Not that I could ever run a route again, but it was great talking shop with them. It's a lot of the same calls with option routes, where you get a choice to go left or right. We were talking about the different way we ran those routes vs. different kinds of defenses.
"I had a friend there who didn't play football and he was in awe that there was so much detail to something so simple as running a 10-yard route. It was interesting to hear their perspective on it, and how they work with Brady on that, and how they get in sync."
Chrebet was first introduced to Amendola in 2015 by chance. He was at an event, met one of Amendola's close friends and that's how the connection was first made; a brief phone call ensued. What Chrebet learned during that call was that Amendola had long admired him, hanging his poster on a wall in his home as a teenager. It's the same way Chrebet once viewed Seattle Seahawks great Steve Largent (1976-1989).
Fast-forward to April of 2016, and Chrebet was reminded of that initial phone call while watching a video spoof on "Cops" that Amendola and Edelman posted online. He laughed, reached out to Amendola and told him they should all get together. The slot receivers, similar to the way they play on the field, worked fast to make it happen. One common thread they quickly discovered is the influence of former Jets and Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Chrebet thrived in his system with the Jets from 1997 to 1999, while the Patriots' offense still features many of the same concepts from the Weis years (2000-04).
Patriots Hall of Famer Troy Brown and Wes Welker could have fit right in at their dinner table as slot machines. Also, Chrebet was a fan of Chicago Bears receiver Tom Waddle (1989-1994), in part because he seldom (if ever) wore gloves and often absorbed bone-crunching hits across the middle. Chrebet said he once wrote the following quote from Waddle on his shirt and wore it under his jersey: "Other players are more physically blessed than I am. But if I have an advantage over them, it's that I don't mind taking the hits. And if getting hit is a God-given talent, I guess I have it."
It's catchy for a member of the slot-receiver fraternity, just like "across the middle till the day we die." At one point during their dinner late last month, Amendola and Edelman told Chrebet they should take a picture and share it on social media. Since Amendola posted the photo on Twitter April 30, it has nearly 1,500 "likes" and, according to Chrebet, has received mostly positive response.
"Some people were like 'How could you take a picture with Patriots guys?' But I think it's a cool picture to see rivals together, and guys from two different eras," he said. "When I was playing, the slot receiver wasn't really a thing. Now they draft for it."
That's why, to Amendola and Edelman, he's "The Godfather." "When they called me that," Chrebet said, "I thought it was hysterical, the greatest thing ever."