CHARLOTTE - Longtime Panthers fans probably know that the starting quarterback for the first regular season game in franchise history is currently an NFL coach.
But few know that the first quarterback ever on the roster is also a current NFL coach.
First-year Colts head coach Frank Reich took the reins for Carolina's christening game on Sept. 3, 1995. But on February 15 of that year, the Panthers added the first quarterback to their fledgling roster when they selected current Eagles coach Doug Pederson with their 22nd pick in the 1995 NFL Expansion Draft.
"That's a few moons ago," said Pederson, whose Eagles will host the Panthers on Sunday. "My wife and I really enjoyed that area. We were hoping that maybe we would have stuck there, but things happen and you move on.
"I was excited – a young player in the league excited to be drafted."
Undrafted out of Northeast Louisiana in 1991, Pederson spent his first four NFL seasons on and off of the Dolphins' 53-man roster. He appeared in seven games in support of Dan Marino among others before being selected by the Panthers in the expansion draft that featured Carolina and Jacksonville taking turns picking unprotected players that were on 1994 NFL rosters.
The Panthers used their 28th expansion draft pick on Jets quarterback Jack Trudeau, signed Reich as an unrestricted free agent six weeks later and drafted Kerry Collins four weeks after that. Reich – who spent the 2016 and '17 seasons as Pederson's offensive coordinator in Philadelphia – and Collins both had stints as the starting quarterback for Carolina's inaugural team, with Trudeau serving in a reserve role. Pederson was released well before the season began in May – after three-plus months – but he went on to play in the league another 10 seasons.
"It's a great sports town – a great city that embraces athletics," Pederson said. "We really felt comfortable there. You're in NASCAR country and for me, bass fishing heaven. I had an opportunity to fish on some of the lakes. It was just a great time."