CHARLOTTE – Before he became head coach in Carolina, Ron Rivera spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the San Diego Chargers, plenty of time to get to know energetic quarterback Philip Rivers.
Rivers, a North Carolina State alum who has spent his entire 13-year career with the Chargers, plays the game with a unique style all his own.
"His competitive fire, his spirit, his will to want to win and the verbiage he used: 'Gosh, golly, doggone,'" Rivera said, when asked to recall some memories. "But that's Philip. He wants to win in the worst way."
Rivera went on to provide a brief story that has stuck with him.
"I can remember one time pulling into a gas station next to him after we had just gotten back from a trip. We'd lost a close game, and I could hear him yelling into the phone. He and his dad were talking about the game," Rivera said. "He was so excited about it, and the competitiveness that he was talking to his dad about what had happened in the game – it's just something I'll never forget."
When Rivers met with the San Diego media on Wednesday, he shared his impressions of Rivera, who coordinated a top defense for the Chargers. "Shoot, I thought he was a heck of a coach," Rivers said. "A guy that you knew was going to get a shot. He's done a nice job as their head coach in Carolina."
The 34-year-old Rivers, meanwhile, continues to be one of the league's most effective passers. He ranks sixth in the NFL with 3,353 passing yards and fourth with 25 touchdowns.
"I think he's still playing at a high level," Rivera said. "You watch his ability to read defenses and attack. He still makes great decisions and delivers a good football. He's got a good feel for the game. He's a tremendous competitor, as well. I know he's a little bit older than the last time I saw him, but I still respect his ability."
View photos of Panthers practice leading up to their game against the Chargers.