Rivers Hype Warranted

North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers dominated his college competition in the ACC. His numbers, work ethic and leadership have led him to where he is now – on the verge of being selected in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. All his college numbers, however, have paled in comparison to the post-college hype that has followed Rivers.

For a guy who was recruited out of high school at three positions, quarterback, tight end and free safety, it appears he chose right.

"That was mentioned," Rivers laughs when talking about being recruited at free safety. "Tight end was another position mentioned as far as being recruited out of high school. Maybe my mind and my confidence could have gone back there and played it, but I don't know if the wheels could have."

What has gotten him to this point has been his arm. Although his throwing motion has been called awkward, Philip Rivers knows how to win – and put up big numbers doing so.

Rivers is the second leading passer in NCAA history with 13,484 career passing yards, breaking school and ACC records. He set an NCAA record with 51 career starts at quarterback and simply completed 72% of his passes, leading the nation, as a senior.

Rivers also owns almost every ACC record there is to own for a quarterback:

• 13,582 career yards of total offense
• 95 career touchdown passes
• 1,710 pass attempts
• 1,147 pass completions
• In on 112 touchdown plays
• Eighteen 300-yard passing games
• Seven 400-yard passing games

A unanimous choice for ACC Player-of-the-Year, he was also a unanimous first-team all-conference choice and was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year as well.

All this and it wasn't until the Senior Bowl that his stock went into hyper-drive.

"Not only me, but millions of other guys that played for all four years and played all 12 games – you do so many things postseason, pre-draft – they time you in the 40, they do this, they do that. There is so much that goes on, especially when I played 51 games and have every bit of college tape that you could ever want.

"What I am getting at is here is you know I can play. There is almost no more I could show you."

But there is more says Rivers and it was the Senior Bowl that accentuated those "hidden" talents.

"There are things that you can't see on tape, especially as a quarterback. They want to see how you take control of the huddle. They want to see if you can lead the guys. How do they respond to you, guys that you don't know so well? Those things that you cant see on tape that you can see in person. Does he like to practice? How is his enthusiasm? All those things that they can see up close and then in the game, I played in tons of games and had a successful career, but what is he going to do out there in game time when he has a wide receiver or a right tackle that he is not used to playing behind. How well can he put the thing together with a new offense?

"I think all those things are factors and they are looking at that more so than the ability of playing the game with your team in a comfortable surrounding."

And comfortable he was. As has been the case in any big game he has played, Rivers walked away with MVP honors at the Senior Bowl. Rivers threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the South to a 28-10 victory in the 55th annual Senior Bowl on a Saturday in January before a sellout crowd of 40,646 in Mobile's Ladd-Peebles Stadium. He was on the field for all four scores the South accounted for.

Rivers was placed in a situation where he knew just a couple of the players on the team and he excelled, as per his norm. His view of how he perceives the post-college events is similar to his thinking on the field when he was the leader of the Wolfpack.

"It is a game of inches, I know everybody says it but that is the difference with us this year at NC State being 8-5 or 11-2 in the Sugar Bowl. There are so many little things that you look at that are the differences in those teams. I think the separation between the National Champions and the 50th ranked team probably isn't a whole lot athletically wise you all have people with talent. It is all the little things and as the quarterback that is key to know every odds, ins and outs."

NFL teams have had their chance to see him every which way including loose and the draft boards are being set. In less than two weeks, Rivers dream of playing in the NFL will become a reality and one team will call themselves lucky.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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