Joining the Elite

When do you know you have hit the big time? What is the defining moment? San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers likely knows that moment - and he has yet to start a game for the team he is starting for. Oddly enough, the moment happened this off-season.

It's a sign, albeit a small one, that quarterback Philip Rivers has arrived. An advertisement promoting a Southern California memorabilia show states that Rivers will be signing autographs along with the likes of Jim Brown and Marcus Allen.

That shows how far Rivers has come since Drew Brees went to New Orleans, opening the starting position for Rivers.

And the writing on the wall regarding Rivers is becoming more evident: he's hyped to be the No. 1 guy and he is expected to act accordingly.

Among Brees' traits was his calm presence. He seldom showed expression -- good or bad -- which in some part led to his nickname, Cool Brees.

Rivers? He doesn't carry pompons but he's among the team's biggest cheerleaders. He wears his feelings out for everyone to see, and makes no bones about it.

"That's the only way I know how to play, really," Rivers said. "I play with a lot of emotion."

Let others act cool. Rivers would rather hoot and holler than display a poker face.

"I lead with emotion," he said. "Without that, I won't perform up to the way I need to perform. That has a lot to do with the way I'm able to play."

And just how will he play? That's to be determined as he's thrown but 30 NFL passes in two seasons as he shadowed Brees.

But the Chargers have to be pleased that Rivers is eager to assume his leadership role in such an obvious fashion: by racing around the field firing guys up, encouraging them to give just a little more in the offseason workouts although the opener isn't until Sept. 11.

It's especially pleasing to the Chargers' brass that he's doing it on a squad featuring plenty of tenured players.

"We have a lot of leaders on this team, a lot of veteran players that know how to win and know how to lead," Rivers said. "But as the quarterback, I take that responsibility seriously and it's one I enjoy doing. Certainly I feel that I have to fill that role."

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