The Julius Peppers-Panthers reunion may not have happened if not for defensive line coach Eric Washington.
A bond that began in 2010 when the two were together in Chicago helped spark Peppers' interest in coming back to Carolina four years later. But Green Bay's 3-4 defense and hard-to-turn-down contract offer delayed things three more seasons.
So now that Peppers is back with the team that drafted him, it's worth noting fellow defensive end Charles Johnson wasn't the only guy pushing for it to happen. Peppers may have turned 37 in January, but according to his former-turned-current coach, he's aged like a fine wine.
"Julius looks like he did seven years ago when I had the first opportunity to coach him," Washington said this week on the Panthers Podcast. "He still looks like he's a dynamic player. The combination of his size and the ability to move - I don't see a lot that's changed with him. He's aged extremely well."
En route to the Hall of Fame, Peppers' 143.5 sacks leads current players and he's fought off Father Time by reaching at least seven sacks in each of the past four seasons.
On the other side of the age spectrum, there's defensive tackle Vernon Butler, who was born the summer Peppers started high school.
The soft-spoken Butler had a mostly quiet 2016, totaling 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks. But most first-year defensive linemen start slowly, and an ankle sprain that cost Butler six games further took the shine off the first-round pick.
"Like all rookies, Vernon was just trying to figure out how to get to the practice field," Washington said. "This spring, I think Vernon has matured. I think he realizes that he's expected to be productive, and I think his approach – how he's approached the offseason workouts, what he's done on the grass so far, there's a huge difference now as opposed to a year ago."
For more from this Panthers Podcast, including Mario Addison's growing role, the T-shirt Daeshon Hall hopes to earn and Washington's love of Earth, Wind & Fire, click 'play' below: