More than a decade after he last wore Powder Blue, Shawne Merriman is still a fan favorite with the Bolt Fam.
And even though he turned 38 years old a few months back, the former outside linebacker looks like he could still suit up.
But in a bit of role reversal, Merriman was on the practice field as a coach Saturday, spending the day shadowing Chargers outside linebackers coach Giff Smith.
"We've been talking about it for two years," Merriman said. "We set a date that I was going to come out. For me, it's just awesome … smelling the fresh cut grass.
"I think that every year since I retired, around this time is when you get that itch when the season starts back up," Merriman added.
Merriman and Smith overlapped in 2011 and 2012 when the outside linebacker was in the final stages of his career with Buffalo.
But the two forged a friendship that has remained strong. Smith said Merriman was someone he wanted to come out and impart some wisdom on the current Chargers if the timing worked out.
So there was Merriman on Saturday, chatting it up with Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack and others on a warm summer morning at Jack Hammett Sports Complex.
"We stayed in contact and he's a great guy," Smith said. "I wanted to get him out here with Joey, Khalil and also the young guys to talk to them.
"Just little technique stuff about pad level, hand placement, kind of what you see off the sets. You see Shawne was such a dominant player, he was physically gifted but a smart player, too," Smith later added. "All the best, they have knowledge. Even if it's similar to what I'm saying, it comes across a little different coming from an All-Pro."
Merriman added: "You obviously know the great players with Bosa, Khalil, but you don't actually get a chance to see them and talk and communicating, competing. I think that's what's going to separate these guys, so it was good to see that somebody as great as they are is still taking in coaching, learning."
Merriman was a dominant player early in his career, bursting onto the scene after being the 12th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Merriman was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with a 10-sack campaign, as he also made the Pro Bowl in his first season.
The accolades would continue for Merriman, who was even better in 2006 when tied a single-season franchise record with 17.0 sacks. Merriman was a First-Team All-Pro selection that season, earning another Pro Bowl nod as he helped the Bolts go 14-2.
Merriman recorded his third consecutive double-digit sack season in 2007 with 12.5, and added a third straight Pro Bowl honor, too.
Injuries hampered the second half of his career as he played in just 33 games from 2008 to 2012, when he decided to retire.
And even though it had been awhile since Merriman had been on the practice field, Smith made sure to put him to work Saturday.
Merriman helped out in individual drills, wearing arm pads as as an offensive lineman as players practiced their pass rushes. And by the time he walked off the field after offering pointers on numerous topics, Merriman's brow was dripping with sweat.
"Having him out here was a blast. I think the players enjoyed it, obviously the fans enjoyed it and I enjoyed having him," Smith said. "He worked now. I had him in the individual drills. He did drills, when we went in one on one's he was in a group, and he was coaching so we got a day's work out of him.
"He came out here, he worked and guys listened to him. It helps to have him out there," Smith added.
Merriman said: "I worked. They got some young guys that got great potential. When you got guys that got great potential, you start working on the little things with them because detail is always the young guys' problem and what they need to learn the most. [Giff] did put me to work."
Merriman's appearance was strictly as a coach, although Smith wondered aloud about him teaming up with Bosa and Mack.
"I told him, 'If we get a little winded I might have to suit you up real quick and get a couple of reps out of you,' " Smith quipped.
He later added: "It's fun to have them back and reminisce on old times. Just for them to impart the knowledge of the game that they have is so valuable to me as a coach and I think it's good for the organization as well."
When practice was over, Merriman's popularity with the Bolt Fam was on full display as he was swarmed for autographs and photos when he approached the bleachers.
Merriman still felt the love Saturday, even if it was as a coach.
"That's what you miss the most," Merriman said. "You miss being in the locker room with the guys, coming out here and hearing the fans. You don't often get to be around them at this point so it's always pretty cool."
Bolt Up for 2022!
Secure your 2022 Season Ticket Memberships today! Click here to learn more.