Danny Amendola/Instagram

Houston Texans player Danny Amendola appears to have slipped under the radar as a new Austin-area resident, just as he has slipped past so many defenders on the football field.

The 35-year-old Amendola recently gave Architectural Digest an exclusive tour of his 4,768-square-foot home on a 1-acre lot along Red Bud Trail in West Lake Hills. Until the Architectural Digest article appeared, many of us likely were unaware that the pro athlete and model was living in our midst.

Realtor.com lists the value of the four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom property at more than $3.2 million. Property records show Amendola bought it in June. In 2017, the property hit the market at $2.1 million.

Architectural Digest delves into great detail, of course, about Amendola’s approach to designing the ranch-style home, which was built in 1968. The aesthetic throws off a midcentury-modern vibe blended with modern-day elements.

“What I wanted to do here was to create depth and weight with the various textures we used. There’s a lot of steel on the walls in the back and heavy tile for some of the living room to add more warmth, to make it feel grounded, defined,” Amendola explains.

Austin architect Tray Toungate, Austin interior designer Christina Canales, and real estate agent/friend Lisa Sherwood collaborated with Amendola on the home renovation. The updated home features pieces of furniture and art that Amendola has collected throughout his NFL career.

“Parts of the home include art that I held for years and years,” he says, “and waited to frame before putting them [on] a specific wall of a specific home.”

While the NFL wide receiver may be new to the Austin area, he’s certainly not new to Texas. Born and raised in The Woodlands, he played college football at Texas Tech University.

In 2008, he signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent but never saw time on the field beyond the practice squad. The same thing happened the following year with the Philadelphia Eagles. But later in 2009, he finally played in a regular-season NFL game after joining the St. Louis Rams. His stretch with the Rams ended in 2012.

Amendola spent the longest span of his NFL career (2013 to 2017) with the New England Patriots, when Tom Brady still quarterbacked the team. He won two Super Bowl rings as a Patriot. Amendola then did short stints with the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions before inking a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Texans in September.

Four years before coming to the Texans, Amendola became the first NFL player to sign with Ford Models, one of the world’s top modeling agencies. Reporting on the Ford Models deal in 2017, People.com drooled that the gig cemented Amendola’s “hot athlete status.”

By the way, where does Amendola keep his NFL- and model-caliber body in shape? Not at home, as it turns out. His West Lake Hills abode lacks an exercise room.

“I’ve always tried to separate my exercise from my home life,” Amendola says. “I don’t want to go into the weight room feeling lazy and lethargic in my own house and get a mediocre workout in. When I’m at home, it’s my time to relax and be with friends and family. And whenever I go to the gym, I know it’s business.”

The Texans player now calls Austin home.

Danny Amendola home
Danny Amendola/Instagram
The Texans player now calls Austin home.
Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated

J.J. Watt suits up and scores some laughs in Saturday Night Live debut


Houston Texans superstar J. J. Watt suited up for a pre-Super-Bowl gig on Saturday Night Live, and not since Hall of Famer Peyton Manning has a pro football player scored as many laughs.

Credit the writers and producers for playing to Watt’s charm, charisma, and physical presence. The chortles started in the opening monologue, a daunting task for even the most seasoned entertainers.

“My name is J.J. Watt and I play defensive end for the Houston Texans,” he began, as if he needed that introduction. “See, the Texans are a football team, football is the sport with the helmets...I’m sorry guys, I didn’t think I’d need to explain that, but the writers backstage seemed super confused.” (Oh, writers.)

He playfully zinged some of his fellow Texans — and himself — with a riff on dumb jocks. “When I found out I was gonna be hosting SNL, I told some of my teammates. And not to fulfill a stereotype, but at least half of them asked me, ‘what day do they tape that?’” Cue audience chuckle.

“I mean, dude,” he continued, “it’s Saturday Night Live — how the hell am I supposed to know? I don’t work there.” Cue bigger audience laugh.

Watt gave some love to his brothers who also play in the NFL. “Our names or J.J., T.J., and for some reason, Derek.” Watt explained that his father was done having kids, but that his mother really wanted to try for a kicker. You know, someone she could dress up, and buy cute clothes for.” That line got an even bigger laugh and applause.

Speaking of dear Mrs. Watt, J.J. imparted a potentially useful parenting tactic for arguing boys. For example: “If we were ever fighting over Super Nintendo, my mom would take the controller, throw it down the basement, turn off the lights, blast Metallica, and say, “whoever brings that back to me gets to play that next.” The audience responded with a laugh, with Watt noting, “that’s not a joke, guys.”

While not every sketch landed (we actually loved when Watt would grin or break character — a charming SNL staple), a sports-themed skit truly stood out.

“Robbie,” the story of an undersized college football hopeful trying to crack the Notre Dame squad — a clear play on the popular football flick Rudy — opens with the team turning in their jerseys and refusing to play unless little Robbie takes the field. One by one, they sacrifice their spots, except for Riley, Watt’s No. 99 character. “You want Robbie to take your spot?” the coach asks Riley.

Slight pause, then Watt’s Riley character rips into a profanity-laced tirade on how pathetic Robbie is as a player. “You guys want Robbie to play in a playoff game? That is bat-sh*t crazy — we’re gonna looooooooose!” Watt nails the incredulous player who scoffs at the goodwill. “I’m sorry, but he’s dog sh*t.”
“You know what, maybe you don’t believe in me, Riley…” Robbie starts. “I definitely don’t,” Riley perfectly interrupts.

The skit even includes a motivational janitor — who gets real with Robbie. Finally, it’s a showdown between Robbie and Riley. You can probably guess how “five-foot-nuthin’” Robbie fares.

Overall, Watt performed admirably in one of the hardest acts in showbiz. We especially loved his recognition of Kobe Bryant — Watt donned a No. 24 Lakers jersey at the close to honor the Lakers star killed in a helicopter crash last week.

So, maybe we’re homers, but we choose to ignore the haters and applaud Watt on his SNL debut. (Some in the media, disagree with our assessment.) After all, the gridiron superstar made no secret where he’d rather have been on Saturday night.

“Would I really trade hosting SNL for the Super Bowl,” he asked in the open. Dramatic pause. “Yes, I definitely would ... if you guys want to call me, I’ll leave right now.”

Photo by Victoria Beauray Sagady

Sports Illustrated punts around possibility of Austin scoring an NFL team

On our turf?

Austin’s first big-league sports team — Major League Soccer’s Austin FC — kicks off its premier season in 2021. But, once again, the potential for another major-league sports team, an NFL franchise, is being kicked around.

In a new piece titled “Which Cities Would Deserve the Newest NFL Expansion Team?”, SI.com, the online platform of Sports Illustrated, floats the long-alluded-to idea of bringing an NFL team to Austin, one of the largest U.S. cities without a major-league football franchise. Austin was among several cities mentioned by SI.com as prospective sites for NFL teams. Others were Montreal; Portland, Oregon; San Diego; Oklahoma City; and a few out-of-the-arena-of-possibility candidates, like Anchorage, Alaska.

In making his case for an NFL team in Austin, writer Albert Breer calls the “San Antonio/Austin metroplex” (metroplex?!) the “best unoccupied market” in the U.S. for NFL expansion. Though he acknowledges San Antonio and Austin aren’t viewed as a combined market, he emphasizes they "are just a few Buc-ee’s stops away from each other" while highlighting the growth happening in shared suburbs like New Braunfels and San Marcos.

“With that [population growth] has come a tech boom and economic explosion in the region, smack in the middle of the most football-crazy state in America,” Breer writes. “And while Austin brings the cash and growth, San Antonio and its prominent Spanish-speaking community can serve as a gateway for the league into Mexico.”

Breer notes that Austin fits the mold of a football-fanatical place (hello, Longhorns) with the “population, interest, and wealth to support a team.” In addition, he says, Austin offers the “boomtown business potential” of two U.S. cities that secured expansion teams in 1995 — Charlotte, North Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida.

Of course, a key consideration for any NFL team is the money scored through TV rights. On its own, Breer writes, San Antonio ranks as a bigger TV market than four places with NFL franchises — Kansas City, Milwaukee (Green Bay), Cincinnati, and Las Vegas. Combine San Antonio’s TV market with Austin’s, and you eclipse the size of TV markets in the NFL cities of Miami and Denver, he notes. Considering Austin’s meteoric population growth, Breer surmises that the blended San Antonio and Austin TV market will only grow larger.

Breer’s suggested name for the team: the Austin Coyotes. That’s a nod to the 1999 football movie Varsity Blues, which was shot mostly in the Central Texas towns of Coupland, Elgin, and Georgetown. The film centers on a high school football team named the Coyotes in the fictional Texas town of West Canaan.

Breer recognizes the resistance that an Austin-San Antonio team likely would meet from the owners of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, both of which have big fan bases in Austin and San Antonio. And let’s not forget that a new stadium would need to be built; the price tag for a project like that easily could top $1 billion.

Now, we’ve heard talk before of NFL teams potentially landing in the Austin-San Antonio area — namely the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints. The Raiders are moving to Vegas, the Saints are staying put, and Austin and San Antonio still lack an NFL team.

Over the years, a number of prognosticators have fielded Austin, San Antonio or Austin/San Antonio as possible players in an NFL expansion, but no formal, sustained efforts have been organized to make that happen. At this point, the NFL has not green-lighted expansion beyond the current lineup of 32 teams.

Back in 2015, a study from American City Business Journals awarded Austin a top score of 100 in terms of the capacity to support an NFL team, as well as an NBA, NHL, and Major League Soccer team. The capacity score for Major League Baseball was 56.

San Antonio didn’t fare quite as well in the 2015 study. It garnered a Major League Soccer score of 100, an NFL score of 96, an NHL score of 92, and a Major League Baseball score of 44. San Antonio already has an NBA team, the Spurs.

Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated

Texas football superstar reveals $41.6 million of Hurricane Harvey donations was spent

watt a guy

Houston Texans megastar J.J. Watt simply wanted to help. As Hurricane Harvey was decimating his beloved city, the NFL and pop culture phenom released a video, enlisting fans and followers for support. He challenged them to raise for $200,000 to his Justin J. Watt Foundation via a YouCaring drive, “because I know these recovery efforts are going to be massive,” he told viewers.

Watt couldn’t have expected the overwhelming response. In less than two hours, the goal was met; within 24 hours, he surpassed $500,000. Soon he was announcing increases almost daily. The Tennessee Titans — sending love to their former home — sent $1 million to Watt’s campaign alone.

The final number: a staggering $41.6 million — the largest crowdsourced fundraiser in world history, according to the foundation.

Soon, Watt was receiving global praise, and was bestowed with the NFL’s Walter Payton Award, which recognizes the player who best demonstrates a charitable and community spirit. As SportsMap editor Fred Faour noted, the award was a no-brainer.

But, questions quickly arose as to where the funds were being appropriated; Watt even publicly responded to one dubious fan.

Finally, there are answers. On August 27, Watt’s foundation released a statement outlining the progress of the contributions made to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund started by Watt “following the destruction left by Hurricane Harvey 12 months ago.”

All funds have been distributed to eight nonprofits: All Hands and Hearts, Americares, Boys & Girls Clubs, Baker Ripley, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, and SBP, according to the statement released by the foundation and the Houston Texans.

Additionally, the monies have so far been used on:

  • The cleanup, repair and rebuilding of over 600 homes.
  • The recovery and rebuilding of over 420 childcare centers and after-school programs, serving over 16,000 children.
  • The distribution of over 26,000,000 meals to those affected.
  • Physical and mental health services to over 6,500 individuals.
  • Distribution of medicine to over 10,000 patients.

The statement also outlines a 12-month plan:

  • Home restoration and disaster case management, including assistance with temporary housing, furniture, appliances, transportation, and more with Baker Ripley.
  • Continued assistance with both physical and mental health services, including the distribution of medicine and implementation of mobile medical clinics with Americares.
  • Additional support to handle the massive increase in demand following Harvey, covering 48 counties through the Houston Food Bank, Coastal Bend Food Bank, Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, and Southeast Texas Food Bank with Feeding America.
  • Rebuilding Harvey-damaged homes, while also focusing on providing resiliency for future storms in Rockport, Aransas County, Refugio County and San Patricio County with All Hands & Hearts.
  • Rebuilding and restoring damaged Boys & Girls Clubs centers in Harvey-affected areas, serving over 5,000 youth.
  • Repairing and rebuilding Harvey-damaged homes with Habitat for Humanity.

In addition to details of the disbursement, Watt released a lengthy letter to fans and supporters of his cause.

“As I reflect on the events of Hurricane Harvey one year ago, the memories of destruction and devastation remain, but they are accompanied by memories of hope, selflessness and the beauty of the human spirit. The actions of professional first responders and everyday citizens alike were an inspiration to the world and a shining example of the inherent good that lies within us all. Those actions locally were then supported by the actions of hundreds of thousands from around the world showing their support and donating their money in order to help out in any way they could.

I was fortunate enough to witness that generosity first hand, as the fundraiser that I started with a simple goal of $200,000 turned into an unbelievable outpouring of support from people all around the globe.

When it was all said and done, after the late donations and checks that came in after the deadline were counted, the total amount that was donated and is now hard at work in the community was $41.6 million. In the past year, those funds have been used to repair and rebuild houses, allowing people to finally return and once again have a place to call ‘home’. Those funds have restored and rebuilt childcare centers so that parents can once again have a place to take their children where they know they will be safe, so that they can return to work and resume a sense of normalcy. Those funds have provided millions and millions of meals to people who weren’t sure where their next meal might be coming from after being devastated by the storm.

And those funds provided physical and mental health care to those who suffered from the events of that awful weekend one year ago. While a great deal has been accomplished in the past 12 months, there is still much work to be done. Moving forward, there will be more of the same, as we continue to work with our incredible nonprofit partners to provide as much help and support as we possibly can for those affected by Harvey. I cannot thank everyone enough for your support and generosity.

You have truly provided an unbelievable example of what the human spirit is capable of accomplishing. Every time that I am fortunate enough to witness someone step back into their home for the first time or a child run around on the playground again, I am reminded of the generosity of strangers that helped make it all possible. Thank you and never stop spreading the positivity! #HoustonStrong”

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Austin is No. 12 in the U.S. with the highest number of 'unretirees'

Office News

Many Austin seniors are still punching the clock well past retirement age. According to "Cities with the Most Working Seniors," a new employment study by business website ChamberofCommerce.org, more than a quarter of Austin seniors aged 65 and up are still employed, making it the No. 12 city in the U.S. with the most working seniors.

More than 25,400 Austin seniors aged 65 and up are employed out of a total 93,861, or 27.1 percent of the city's senior population.

The No. 1 city in the U.S. with hard-working oldsters is Alexandria, Virginia, located in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, where 36.8 percent of its seniors still employed. Coming in second was Tallahassee, Florida, with 30.9 percent. In third place was Dallas, with 30.3 percent of the senior population clocking in for work around the city.

To determine their ranking, the site examined the percentage of seniors aged 65 and over who were actively employed within the last 12 months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Their analysis included data from 170 of the nation’s most populous cities.

The report says the median household income of a senior citizen in Austin is $58,546, and hints at the rising cost of living coupled with personal extenuating circumstances leading to a new trend of "unretiring" seniors within the local workforce.

"Deciding when to retire is one of the most important financial and personal decisions that workers can make," the report's author said. "Before making the leap, make sure you have factored in your savings, social security benefits, spending habits, economic volatility, and how your social life will change after retirement."

Also in Central Texas, San Antonio ranked No. 82 overall with 22.1 percent of the senior population currently in the workforce. Although that seems like a smaller number of people, it's actually much larger than Austin, with 41,918 seniors toiling away out of a total 189,544.

San Antonio's relatively high percentage of working seniors might come as a surprise, considering the city was named one of the best cities for retirees earlier in 2023.

The top 10 U.S. cities with the most working seniors are:

  • No. 1 – Alexandria, Virginia
  • No. 2 – Tallahassee, Florida
  • No. 3 – Dallas, Texas
  • No. 4 – Irvine, California
  • No. 5 – Washington, D.C.
  • No. 6 – Plano, Texas
  • No. 7 – Anchorage, Alaska
  • No. 8 – Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • No. 9 – Overland Park, Kansas
  • No. 10 – Madison, Wisconsin

ChamberofCommerce.org is a digital site for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The full report and its methodology can be found on chamberofcommerce.org.

Online home searching platform Compass buys top Austin-based brokerage

real estate news

National residential real estate agency Compass has acquired Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio, in a move that will expand its position as the leading national firm and its growth in Texas by more than 600 agents.

Although the sale price was not disclosed in Compass' announcement, the local brokerages completed $5.24 billion sales just in 2022 alone.

Compass added that the Austin and San Antonio leadership will have direct oversight of daily operations as part of the terms of the acquisition. Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio co-founder Yvette Flores maintains that she and her leadership team will strive for a "seamless transition" into the national firm that respects the home-grown culture they have created.

Realty Austin was founded in 2004 by Flores and Jonathan Boatwright, and has grown through the years to become one of the most innovative brokerages in Central Texas and beyond. The company expanded its operations to San Antonio in 2021.

Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio CEO Gabe Richter said in the release that Compass' leading-edge technology will help his agents foster greater successes, particularly in one booming Austin category: luxury real estate.

"Our agents have consistently set records with remarkable achievements," Richter said in the release. "Now, by aligning with Compass, they gain access to a transformative technology platform that enhances efficiency and elevated resources that empower them to secure even more luxury listings."

Compass was founded in 2012 as the largest real estate brokerage in the U.S., and preserves its stronghold as the No. 1 brokerage in Texas thanks to its milestone acquisition. The national brokerage has already surpassed $10 billion in sales in Texas in 2023, according to the release.

“With this acquisition, we've positioned ourselves as Austin's leading brokerage — our commitment to setting new standards and inspiring innovation for all our exceptional agents remains the top priority while honoring what Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio has built," said Compass Texas President Rachel Hocevar.

Stylish Barbie merch truck cruises through Austin on 'Dreamhouse Living Tour'

This Barbie Sells Merch

Hot on the heels — or wheels — of the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck comes another timely pink rolling shop. Actually, this truck will beat the Sanrio version to Austin on October 7.

The Barbie Truck will stop in Austin on its 2023 "Dreamhouse Living Tour," which celebrates the 60th anniversary of Barbie's ever-more popular property, and will give visitors a chance to spice up their own homes.

Although this is all about the house, there are only a few homewares: things like coasters, glass tumblers, a glass mug, a throw blanket, and an "accessories cup." Visiting Barbies have more opportunities to take home wearable and on-the-go items like graphic tees, hoodies, and denim; a baseball cap; embroidered patches; and keychains.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living TourPhoto courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Most people who have been awake and on social media in the past year have learned that Barbie's Dreamhouse has a more empowering history than many girls realized while orchestrating drama between the dolls.

A release announcing the arrival of the truck reminds fans (and detractors) that when the Dreamhouse came out, only a tenth of a percent of young women were independent homeowners, and states that someone buys a Dreamhouse every minute.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Photo courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Dreamhouse aside, this is a dream ride.

The Barbie Truck will be in Austin on Saturday, October 7. from 10 am to 7 pm at The Domain. Arrive early in case of long lines.

These Barbies will hit six other Texas cities on the tour:

  • September 30 — San Antonio
  • October 14 — Laredo
  • October 21 — Friendswood (Houston)
  • October 28 — The Woodlands (Houston)
  • November 4 — Plano (Dallas)
  • November 11 — Fort Worth

Follow along to see more stops on Instagram or Facebook.