Rivers Unanimous Pick for ACC's Top Player

<B>RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) --</b> Kids run out of church early seeking autographs. And he can't eat his favorite junk food at the mall without being approached by fans.

Around this city, North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers has become the sports version of pop artist Clay Aiken.

"You see young kids and people who are excited and look up to you and that means a lot to me," said Rivers, who was named the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Sunday by The Associated Press.

"I sometimes don't realize when I go sit at the food court people notice me and want to speak to me. It's something I've gradually gotten used to and something I appreciate. I don't see myself any differently, but I guess on the outside people think I'm neat."

In teen terms, the senior has been 'cool' in the pocket for four years for the Wolfpack, throwing for more than 13,000 yards and 90 touchdowns -- both ACC records.

"He has brought the name of N.C. State to the forefront nationally," N.C. State coach Chuck Amato said. "He will be a special, special name in the history of N.C. State football forever and ever. He needs to be put up there as one of the best quarterbacks who has ever played."

This season, he completed 311 of 438 for a remarkable 71 percent, throwing for 4,016 yards and 29 TDs with the Tangerine Bowl still on the schedule.

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound QB from Alabama was a unanimous pick in 68 votes cast by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, becoming the fourth quarterback in the last five seasons to win the ACC's top individual honor.

Since 1974, the only N.C. State winners of the award were wide receiver Torry Holt in 1998 and quarerback Erik Kramer in 1986.

Meanwhile, Florida State defensive lineman Darnell Dockett was named the ACC's top defensive player, edging Georgia Tech linebacker Keyaron Fox.

"The quarterback gets a lot of the recognition, but you've got to have so much help in order for you to have any statistics or any success at all," said Rivers, who thanked his teammates and coaching staff in a telephone interview Sunday.

Rivers had the top four passing games in the ACC this season, throwing for a season-high 423 yards against North Carolina and 422 against Florida State.

"Mid-to-late in the year I was really starting to see everything so quickly and was able to make quick decisions," Rivers said. "I played pretty well down the stretch."

Rivers' only two regrets are a 7-5 senior season and a home loss to Maryland on the day he his No. 17 jersey was retired.

"It wasn't a perfect career, but I guess it exceeded expectations in the sense of awards, numbers and statistics," Rivers said. "If I could do it all over again I would change a few losses, but I've been blessed with a fun four years."

The 6-4, 280-pound Dockett, expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick, received 18 votes to 14 for Fox.

Dockett, of Burtonsville, Md., had 161/2 tackles for loss in 12 games and 16 QB hurries for one of the nation's best defenses.

For his career, the senior defensive tackle had a school-record 641/2 tackles behind the line for scrimmage.


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