Familiarity can be a valuable friend in new – and extraordinary – situations.
As the Chargers continue their offseason program virtually, offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. share a commonality as two of the team's newest members: They've been reunited with their former position coaches. Defensive backs coach Ron Milus was Harris Jr.'s first position coach in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, while offensive line coach James Campen spent eight season with Bulaga in Green Bay.
"It was a big deal for me," Bulaga said during a video conference call Wednesday. "Going into a new place when I've been somewhere for 10 years and having a familiar face in the room, and especially someone I trust very much. I think Coach Campen's a hell of a coach. I think he's a hell of a person, too."
Under Campen, Bulaga started 95 regular season games for the Packers. In his rookie season, he got the nod at right tackle in all three playoff games, including Super Bowl XLV – a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bulaga said that players enjoy playing for Campen, adding that "he's not a cookie-cutter coach."
"The biggest thing that he does is he allows guys to be themselves, and that's something that as a young guy in the league … you can't put a price tag on because he allows guys to grow and become themselves," Bulaga said.
As an undrafted free agent from Kansas in 2011, Harris Jr. walked into a Broncos defensive backs room run by Milus. Nine years later, the Super Bowl champion cornerback said not much has changed.
"It's exactly how it was in Denver when he was there," Harris Jr. said of Milus. "He coaches everybody, and that's what you need. You need a DB coach that coaches everybody's technique the same – doesn't matter how good you are – and that's how he did [it] when I was there with [Hall of Fame cornerback] Champ [Bailey].
Harris Jr. may be trending toward Canton, too. In nine NFL seasons, he's been selected to four Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team in 2016. In April, Harris Jr. was named to the NFL's All-Decade team.
It was Milus who encouraged him early on to stick with the position that's earned him those accolades.
"He [Milus] said whatever you do – if you can play outside, safety, whatever – always try to play that slot because he said I'm one of the best at it," Harris Jr. said.
Cornerbacks and offensive linemen are rarely compared, but Bulaga and Harris Jr.'s offseasons are eerily similar: veterans with Super Bowl rings who have ventured away from the only NFL homes they've ever known.
With careers continuing in Los Angeles, each player has a mentor from the past in their respective corner.
"It's invaluable to have a guy that you trust in that you know really well, and that you can rely on day in and day out," Bulaga said. "You know exactly how he's gonna be to be your coach."