After leaving NC State, Rivers was among best in NFL for 17 seasons

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 21, 2021

By Michael Marot

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — When Philip Rivers first started tossing footballs as a high-school ball boy, he heaved them any way he could. The throwing motion stuck — and success soon followed.

Rivers used that strange, shot put-like style to land a college scholarship to North Carolina State University, become a first-round draft pick and eventually string together one of the greatest 17-year careers in NFL history. On Wednesday, the 39-year-old Indianapolis Colts quarterback announced his retirement.

“Every year, Jan. 20 is a special and emotional day,” Rivers said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “It is St. Sebastian’s Feast day, the day I played in the AFC championship without an ACL, and now the day that after 17 seasons, I’m announcing my retirement from the National Football League. Thank you God for allowing me to live out my childhood dream of playing quarterback in the NFL. I am grateful to the Chargers for 16 seasons, and the Colts for the 17th season.”

Rivers was one of a kind.

Between his trademark throwing style and his penchant for trash-talking without cussing, he carved out his own niche in the NFL. When he threw for 401 yards and five touchdowns in his second college game, then-Indiana Hoosiers coach and future NFL head coach Cam Cameron proclaimed that the Wolfpack freshman had a future in the NFL.

Rivers didn’t just play in the league — he created a legacy few achieve.

“We kind of think it started at 5, 6, 7, 8 years old, throwing a regulation-size football,” Rivers said before the season opener, explaining how he developed his style. “I couldn’t hold it, grip it, palm it, so I had to kind of lay it in my hand a little bit. You’re not strong enough to throw it, you push it. Then as you get bigger and stronger, you change it a little bit. But I think the actual motion kind of stays with what’s most comfortable and muscle memory and how you get used to throwing it.”

After being selected fourth overall in the 2004 draft, he was immediately traded from the New York Giants to the San Diego Chargers for Eli Manning. Rivers spent the next two seasons backing up Drew Brees in San Diego before taking over as the starter when Brees left in free agency.

In the 2006 season opener, Rivers made his starting debut — and then the next 251 in a row including the playoffs. His 240 consecutive regular-season starts was the second-longest streak since 1970, trailing only Brett Favre (297), and it was one of the few stats Rivers cherished.

“It’s certainly important to me and I’m thankful that I’ve been healthy enough to be out there,” Rivers said in November. “I do think there is something about that availability, being there each and every week.”

Rivers won 134 career games — No. 2 among quarterbacks without a Super Bowl ring — and was eighth all-time. Only Tom Brady (230), two-time Super Bowl champs Peyton Manning (186) and Ben Roethlisberger (156), Brees (172) and Hall of Famers Favre (186), John Elway (148) and Dan Marino (147) won more regular-season games.

He also finished his career ranked fifth in career completions (5,277), yards passing (63,440) and touchdown passes (421), and as the Chargers’ franchise record-holder in every major passing category.

Despite struggling in 2019, Rivers rebounded in Indianapolis. He finished with 22 TD passes and six interceptions over the last 12 games.

He was an eight-time Pro Bowler.

Comments