Leah Still's friend J.J. Watt has helped her dad, Devon, adjust to the Texans defense

HOUSTON -- When Houston Texans defensive lineman Devon Still introduced his 5-year-old daughter, Leah, to new teammate J.J. Watt, the two quickly became friends.

So much so that on the bus ride back from the NFL Honors show, Leah opted to sit with Watt, not her dad.

"She loved him," Devon Still said. "J.J., he likes to clown around a lot, so does my daughter. They have similar personalities."

Watt and the Stills were at the February show for very different reasons. Watt accepted his third Defensive Player of the Year award, while Leah presented Comeback Player of the Year to fellow cancer survivor Eric Berry. But their paths were already intertwining. Leah's dad is attempting a different kind of comeback, and Watt's help is crucial in the transition. After a year away from football, and two years helping Leah recover from stage-4 neuroblastoma, Devon Still is competing to be the Texans' starting defensive end opposite Watt.

"Just taking a year off, I missed the hell out of football," said Still, who was picked in the second round of the 2012 draft by the Bengals and spent the following three seasons with Cincinnati. "I’ve been playing since I was 13. I’m really looking forward to getting back on the field, showing my ability and showing I can overcome the adversity I’ve been through and be an impactful player."

To aid his comeback, Still mines to two elite veterans on the Texans' defensive line: Watt and nose tackle Vince Wilfork. In fact, as soon as he signed his futures deal with the Texans in January, Still texted a warning to Watt that upon arriving in Houston, he'd have many questions.

"Get ready," he added.

"I'm ready for you lol," came the reply.

Watt welcomed Still and offered help whenever he could.

"Devon asks a lot of questions," Watt said. "He really wants to get a good grip of the defense. It’s been really fun."

Part of the transition was in playing in a different system. Still played in a 4-3 system in Cincinnati. The Texans' base defense is a 3-4, and he'll line up farther outside than he did with the Bengals.

"There are definitely changes when you go from playing the 3-tech to 5-tech and 9-tech," Still said. "You’re playing in a lot more space. Football is football. You have the same responsibilities. It takes a lot of thinking with the defensive line, because they ask you to do a lot on this defensive line."

Still's development and relationship with Watt will be important to the three-time defensive player of the year, too. For the prior two seasons, he and Jared Crick developed the kind of rapport that allowed Watt to freelance with as little consequence elsewhere as possible. The Texans let Crick depart to the Broncos in free agency this March.

Still could be Houston's answer there, and he's preparing to show he is.