Each year there's a part of an NFL draft class that stands out. The quarterbacks in 1983, the receivers in 1996 and the offensive tackles in 2008. For Bills head coach Chan Gailey, what stands out will be much smaller in scale. But besides Buffalo's pick at nine, seeing three of his former Georgia Tech players get drafted sooner rather than later in late April will be as special as it gets.
Even though it's been three years since his last season on the sidelines at Georgia Tech, Gailey still feels a connection to his former players, which make up a prominent part of this year's draft pool.
"I can't talk detached about those guys because I'm attached to them," said Gailey. "I know who they are and where they came from and their families. They're great athletes and human beings. They understand work ethic, toughness and the game."
Yellow Jackets defensive end Derrick Morgan is considered one of the top 4-3 defensive ends in the draft class and is expected to be among the first 15 picks. Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (6'3" 225) was widely considered a late first-round pick, but that is up in the air after he broke his foot last week while training.
"I was training in Phoenix, Arizona and I was running and I popped my fifth metatarsal," said Thomas. "I was running the three cone drill, and I was only going about 75 percent and it popped on my last cone."
It's unclear if Thomas will be healthy soon enough to run and test before the draft at this point, but even if he cannot he's still considered a second-round prospect as he was running times of 4.38 prior to the injury and compiling 46 catches for 1,154 yards (25.1 avg.) and eight touchdowns in his final collegiate season.
Running back Jonathan Dwyer (5'11" 229), who exploded for 1,395 yards on 235 carries (5.9 avg.) and 14 touchdowns last season isn't expected to make it out of round two.
Of course don't ask their former head coach to share any of their assets or attributes.
"I don't want to get into specifics about strengths and weaknesses," Gailey said. "That's proprietary information that we get and only we get."
Gailey and three of his current assistants with the Bills all have strong working knowledge of the three Tech players, which Buffalo's head coach admits puts them ahead of the game a bit.
For the top Tech prospects, getting to see Gailey again at the combine will be a treat.
"It'd be good to see him," said Thomas. "We got along. I sat in his office a couple of times and talked to him. He's a real good guy to get along with and he helped me out with a lot of different stuff."
For Gailey his players were his extended family and it was evident by the family atmosphere he tried to develop at Tech.
"I used to go to his house and have dinner at his house," Thomas said. "Our relationship was more than coach-player, but I wasn't the only one."
"I think when you're in college you get a lot more of a feel for a guy," said Gailey. "You're around him for four years. You develop a relationship with them."
And so while the professional football careers of Dwyer, Morgan and Thomas may not be in Buffalo come late April, that bond, which still exists today, will make their successes just as enjoyable for their former coach.
"I think all three of them are going to be very good professional football players," said Gailey. "All three of them."