There's always a connection in the NFL.
With 32 teams, a frequently churning roster, and countless college programs that consistently pump out players on a yearly basis, it's hard to find a matchup each Sunday without participants on both sides sharing a history.
But it's a little different this Sunday between the Texans and Bills, and it starts at the top. In the late 1990's, Bill O'Brien and Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone were both assistants at Georgia Tech under George O'Leary. And the connection goes deeper than that.
"He's one of my closest friends," O'Brien said. "We worked together on the same staff at Georgia Tech. We carpooled to work together. His wife and my wife were college roommates at Boston College."
O'Brien said he has a "great deal of respect" for Marrone, but that this week is about the matchup on the field between the two teams.
Also, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was Buffalo's signal caller from 2009 to 2012. He tossed 23 or more touchdowns in each of the final three years there, before signing with the Titans in 2013.
Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams was a Texan from 2006 to 2011, and was the first overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. He also is the franchise's all-time sacks leader. It will be his second trip back to NRG Stadium since he left via free agency in 2012.
Those are just a few of the connections the two teams share. The Texans media relations staff compiled the rest, and they're listed below.
THE GEORGIA TECH CONNECTION
Head Coach Bill O'Brienand Buffalo Head Coach Doug Marroneworked together on staff at
Georgia Tech from 1996-1999. O'Brien served as a graduate assistant (1995-97), running backs coach (1998-00), offensive coordinator (2001) and assistant head coach (2002) while Marrone worked as tight ends coach (1996) and offensive line coach (1997-99). Also on staff at Georgia Tech during this time was Wide Receivers Coach Stan Hixon(1995-99), Bills Special Teams Coach Danny Crossman (1999-00) and Bills Special Teams Assistant John Anselmo(1995-98). Quarterbacks Coach George Godseywas a backup quarterback at Georgia Tech (1998-99) with Marrone on staff and was the full-time starter from 2000-01.
*FORMER BILLS ON THE TEXANS *
QB Ryan Fitzpatrickstarted 53 games for the Bills from 2009-12. Fitzpatrick set career highs with
24 passing touchdowns (2011, 12), 3,832 yards passing (2011) and a passer rating of 83.3 (2012) during his tenure with the Bills. Fitzpatrick holds the following Bills records: longest play from scrimmage, a 98-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens (at Jacksonville, 11/22/09), and longest rushing touchdown for a quarterback – (31 yards vs. Miami 11/29/09); Wide Receivers Coach Stan Hixonheld the same position in Buffalo from 2011-12; Defensive Line Coach Bill Kollar held the same position in Buffalo from 2006-08.
FORMER TEXANS ON THE BILLS
DE Mario Williamswas the first overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft and played the first six seasons his career in Houston. Williamsis Houston's all-time career sack leader with 53.0 and led the team in sacks each year from 2007-10.
BILLS WITH CONNECTIONS TO TEXAS
TE Scott Chandleris originally from Bedford and led Southlake Carroll High School to a 16-0 record
and the Class 5A Division II State tile in 2003; Defensive Backs Coach Donnie Hendersonwas the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach at the University of Houston in 1998; WR Marquise Goodwinplayed at Texas and is from Garland; DE Jerry Hughesplayed at TCU and is from Sugar Land; RB Fred Jacksonis from Fort Worth; G Cyril Richardson played at Baylor; S Aaron Williamsplayed at Texas and is from Round Rock.
TEXANS-BILLS COLLEGE CONNECTIONS
RB Arian Fosterplayed at Tennessee (2005-08) with Bills Tight Ends Coach Greg Adkinson staff; Offensive Quality Control Coach Tim Kellyand Bills Defensive Quality Control Coach Thad Bogarduswere graduate assistants together at Ball State (2011); DE Tim Jamisonplayed at Michigan with Bills Offensive Quality Control Coach Kurt Andersonon staff (2006-07); RB Alfred Blueand CB Ron Brookswere teammates at LSU (2009-11); CB Kareem Jacksonand Bills DT Marcell Dareuswere teammates at Alabama (2008-09); TE Ryan Griffinand Bills WR Marcus Easleywere teammates at UCONN (2008-10); OLB Jadeveon Clowneyand S D.J. Swearingerwere teammates with Bills CB Stephon Gilmoreat South Carolina (2010-11); G Ben Jonesand Bills T Cordy Glenn were teammates at Georgia (2009-11); QB Ryan Mallettand Bills TE Chris Graggplayed together at Arkansas (2008-10); WR DeAndre Hopkinsand Bills T Chris Hairston (2010) and WR Sammy Watkins(2011-12) were teammates at Clemson; DE Jeoffrey Paganand Bills T Cyrus Kouandjiowere teammates at Alabama (2011-13); CB Elbert Mackand Bills CB Leodis McKelvinwere teammates at Troy (2006-07); ILB Brian Cushingand Bills LB Keith Riverswere teammates at USC (2005-07); DE J.J. Wattwas teammates with Bills G Kraig Ubrikat Wisconsin (2008).
TEXANS-BILLS PRO CONNECTIONS
Linebackers Coach Mike Vrabel(2001-08) and Assistant Strenghth and Conditioning Coach Anthony Pleasant(2001-03)*played in New England with Bills Defensive Line CoachPepper Johnson on staff. Also in New England withJohnsonon staff was Head CoachBill O'Brien (2007-08), Quarterbacks CoachGeorge Godsey (2011-13) and Defensive CoordinatorRomeoCrennel(2001-04). Vrabel, Crennel and Johnson were a part of three Super Bowl Teams (2001,2003, 2004) and Pleasant was present for two of those championships. Pleasantand Johnsonwere also teammates in Cleveland from 1993-95 and in New York with the Jets in 1998; Crennelwas a coach for the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns during Johnson's playing career and the duo won a pair of Super Bowls together in New York in 1986 and 1990. QB Ryan Mallett(2011-13)and ILBJeff Tarpinian (2011-12) played in New England with Bills LBBrandon Spikes (2010-13) and withJohnson on staff; Defensive Line CoachBill Kollar and Bills Offensive CoordinatorNathaniel Hackett were together on staff with the Bills in 2008;Pleasant played for the Cleveland Browns (1990-95) with Bills Defensive CoordinatorJim Schwartz scouting for the team from 1991-93; QBRyan Fitzpatrick played and Special Teams CoachBob Ligashesky was on staff in St. Louis with Bills Quarterbacks CoachTodd Dowling on staff in 2006; Assistant Special Teams CoachDoug Colman and Bills Running Backs CoachTyrone Wheatley were teammates with the New York Giants (1996-98); PShane Lechler and Wheatley were teammates in Oakland (2000-04); WRDamaris Johnson and Bills RBBryce Brown were teammates in Philadelphia (2013); RBRonnie Brown and Bills KDan Carpenter were teammates in Miami (2008-10); CBDarryl Morris and Bills RBBoobie Dixon were teammates in San Francisco (2013); SDanieal Manning and Bills CBCorey Graham (2007-10), QBKyle Orton (2006-08) and GChris Williams (2008-10) were teammates in Chicago; Running Backs CoachCharles London (2008-09) was on staff in Chicago with Graham on the roster;Ligashesky was on staff in Denver in 2010 withOrton on the team;Ligashesky was on staff in Pittsburgh in 2009 with Bills FBFrank Summer and GKraig Urbik on the team; SKendrick Lewis and NTJerrell Powe played withOrton in Kansas City in 2011; CChris Myers and Bills TErik Pears were teammates in Denver (2006-07);Lechler andPears were teammates in Oakland (2009); CBJohnathan Joseph and Bills LBKeith Rivers *were teammates in Cincinnati (2008-10).