The last time the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs in the 1999 season, Bill Schuster had yet to make his debut as an official came. This Sunday, he'll circle back around to where it all started as the veteran NFL umpire is part of the seven-man crew scheduled to work the Buffalo-Jacksonville AFC wild-card game.
Schuster, 59 and in his 18th season as an NFL official, worked his first game on Sept. 3, 2000 in Cleveland when the Browns hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars coached then by Tom Coughlin. Coughlin, a Waterloo native and two-time Super Bowl champion as coach of the New York Giants, is now executive vice president of football operations for the Jaguars.
That game in Cleveland happened nearly nine months after the last Bills' playoff game, the infamous loss in Nashville to the Tennessee Titans known as the "Music City Miracle."
The pinnacle, of course, for Schuster was being on the crew that officiated Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 when the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Arizona.
Schuster wears No. 129 on his back. It's the number the NFL assigned him when the league hired him to work in the World Football League, better known as NFL Europe, back in 1997. His career hasn't been without challenges, including missing much of the 2015 season after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
The Schuster family is well known around Lakeville, Livingston County, about 35 miles south of Rochester. A 1976 graduate of Livonia, Bill is the oldest of George and Joan Schuster's seven children. His brother, Bob, was also a star quarterback at Livonia and Alfred, where Bill was a two-time All-American wide receiver and also played defensive end. His sister, Karen, is Livonia's girls basketball coach and her 399 wins rank sixth all-time in Section V and she has more wins than any other female coach in sectional girls basketball history.