There will be some familiar names and some familiar faces when the 7-3 Detroit Lions encounter the 8-2 New England Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday.
Detroit’s 53-man roster includes six football connections of note, while another one resides on the team’s practice squad and another on injured reserve. There are former teammates, former Patriots and former college products from New England among them. Here is glance at each.
George Winn, Running Back: Winn rushed for 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns as a University of Cincinnati redshirt senior in 2012, where he was once a teammate of former Patriots receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. And after going unselected in the following April’s draft, Winn had a one-month stint with the Houston Texans before joining Thompkins in New England on June 17, 2013. But after accruing 15 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown that preseason, the undrafted rookie was released during August’s cutdown to 53. Winn has since been a member of the Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. Detroit promoted him from the practice squad on Sept. 30, and he has since played in six regular-season games, gaining 66 yards on 17 attempts.
Jeremy Ross, Wide Receiver and Returner: Undrafted out of the California, where he was a teammate of Patriots halfback Shane Vereen, Ross signed his first NFL contract with New England on July 25, 2011. After a preseason in which the 6-foot, 215-pound Golden Bear played in three games and caught two passes for six yards, the rookie free agent was released during the final roster cuts. Since then, Ross has been a member of the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers, but he found a home in Detroit in 2013. And this year, he’s played in 10 contests and started nine, recording a career-best 17 receptions for 204 yards and a touchdown, as well as 12 kick returns for 299 yards and 20 punt returns for 204 yards.
James Ihedigbo, Safety: A former Amherst Regional and University of Massachusetts standout, Ihedigbo returned to the state in 2011 after four years with the New York Jets. The 6-foot-1, 217-pounder played in all 16 games for the Patriots that season, starting 12 games and tallying 69 tackles and one pass breakup. Ihedigbo joined the Lions in 2014 after two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.
Emil Igwenagu, Fullback: A Worcester native and 2012 UMass graduate, Igwenagu was signed to the Detroit practice squad on Aug. 31, following two years with the Philadelphia Eagles. And while he won’t suit up Sunday for the game at Gillette Stadium, it is something he has done before as a fullback and tight end for the Minutemen.
Montell Owens, Running Back: A veteran of nine NFL seasons and two Pro Bowls as a special-teamer, Owens now finds himself on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury suffered in September. But long before, he found himself in Orono as a member of the Maine Black Bears, graduating in 2006.
Joseph Fauria, Tight End: There aren’t many tight ends named Fauria, but there are at least two. The 6-foot-7, 267-pound nephew of Christian Fauria – who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots in 2004 and 2005 – has caught 21 passes for 256 yards and seven touchdowns in 20 career games with the Lions.
Theo Riddick, Running Back: Before becoming the 199th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Riddick shared a backfield with current Patriots halfback Jonas Gray at Notre Dame. The two were teammates for three seasons, and when Gray’s time in South Bend came to a close after the 2011 season, Riddick took over lead role and recorded 917 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 190 carries in 2012.
George Johnson, Defensive End: A member of the Rutgers football team from 2006 to 2009, Johnson crossed paths with a pipeline of future Patriots, including current ones in safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon as well as tight end Tim Wright. And since finishing his time in Piscataway, N.J., the 2010 undrafted free agent has spent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – under former head coach Greg Schiano – and the Minnesota Vikings. The 26-year-old defensive end joined the Lions this season and has notched 23 tackles along with four sacks in 10 games.