In the 2004 NFL Draft, Rivers was obtained in a draft-day trade with the New York Giants -- the Chargers drafted quarterback Eli Manning (despite a statement that he would not play for them) with the first overall pick, and subsequently traded him to the Giants in exchange for Rivers (whom the Giants selected with the 4th overall pick), New York's third round pick in 2004, and their first and fifth round picks in 2005.
When Rivers was in kindergarten, he worked as a waterboy at Decatur High School in Decatur, Alabama, where his dad was the head coach of the football team. As part of a fifth-grade project, he had to make a poster about his dreams and aspirations. On the poster, he pasted his face over that of a Minnesota Vikings player who had appeared on a cover of Sports Illustrated. He wears number 17 in honor of his father, Steve, who wore the same number in high school. Rivers has worn it since the ninth grade. Rivers' number was retired before his final home game at North Carolina State. His lesser known brother Steven Rivers wishes to follow in his brothers footsteps. He is the quarterback for the Cedar Ridge Black Bears.
High School Career
Rivers attended Athens High School in Athens, Alabama and was a football star and a good student. He was the starting quarterback and as a senior he completed 109 out of 195 passes attempted (a 55.9 completion percentage), saw action at free safety, and was the Alabama Player of the Year. He was also an excellent student and graduated with a 3.7 grade point average.
After high school, Rivers attended North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he played for coach Chuck Amato. During his epic collegiate career, Rivers shattered almost every NC State and Atlantic Coast Conference passing record. His career culminated with his record 51st college start, establishing a new benchmark for consistency in college football. Rivers was a reliable and steadfast offensive general for the Wolfpack, starting all four years, even as a true freshman. The Wolfpack went to four consecutive bowl games under the leadership of Rivers, winning three of them, including a New Year's Day victory over the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the 2002 Gator Bowl.
Rivers was named ACC Athlete of the Year in 2004 and was also named the MVP of 5 bowl games, including the Senior Bowl. He was considered a Heisman candidate by some, but he was not invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation. Jason White of Oklahoma won the award.
2004 NFL Draft
- Main article: Rivers-Manning Trade
After a spectacular senior season at North Carolina State, Rivers was projected to be a mid-to-late first round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. Rivers was viewed by prognosticators as the second or third best quarterback in the draft, behind Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Despite Rivers' fantastic record of success in college and remarkable accuracy (72% completion percentage for his senior season), questions about his lack of arm strength and his unorthodox side-arm throwing motion put him behind Manning and Roethlisberger on most NFL Draft boards. The pre-draft consensus was that Rivers would be selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 11th pick. The Chargers did not covet Eli Manning as many inaccurately suggest, but wanted to select him with their first round pick for trade value, which was also the first overall pick of the draft. Eli Manning indicated before the draft that he would not sign with the San Diego Chargers, the Chargers stuck to their plans and forced the Giants to offer high value draft picks in exchange for the rights to land the less talented Eli Manning. Rivers was their first choice all along because the Chargers head coach at the time, Marty Schottenheimer, had coached Rivers at the Senior Bowl and he liked what he saw from Rivers. The Chargers agreed to a trade on draft day with the New York Giants, who possessed the fourth pick of the draft. Rivers was selected with the fourth pick by the Giants and his draft rights were traded to the Chargers, along with their 2005 1st round pick (used by San Diego to select Shawne Merriman), 2004 3rd round pick (Nate Kaeding) and 2005 5th round pick (traded to Tampa Bay for Roman Oben) for the draft rights to Eli Manning, whom the Chargers had selected with the first pick. Rivers was deemed to be a reach selection by San Diego by many draft experts, who believed that they should have selected Ben Roethlisberger.
In August 2004, after his trade from the Giants, Rivers signed a 6 year, $40.5 million contract with the San Diego Chargers that included $14.5 million in signing bonuses. However, due to a protracted contract negotiation with the San Diego Chargers, Rivers reported to the team during the last week of training camp. As a result, the Chargers gave incumbent quarterback Drew Brees the opportunity to retain his starting job at the beginning of the season. With almost no training camp time under his belt, Rivers was unable to wrest the starting position from Drew Brees during the 2004 preseason. Rivers began the season as the Chargers' third QB option, behind Doug Flutie, but ahead of the #4 QB Cleo Lemon. Unfortunately for Rivers, Brees went on to have by far the best season of his career. By the end of the season, Drew Brees was named to the NFL Pro Bowl and won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Rivers received very limited playing time in the 2004 season, playing in only two games. He only threw passes in the second half of the last game of the 2004 season (a win over Kansas City), by which time the Chargers had already clinched a home playoff spot and the AFC West division title.
Speculation was running rampant over whether or not Rivers would even remain with the team and whether he had a chance to supplant the resurgent Brees. However, Rivers stayed with the organization and was promoted to the #2 QB position after the Chargers released Doug Flutie, who later signed with the New England Patriots.
Rivers was unable to beat out Drew Brees for the starting quarterback job in the Chargers' 2005 training camp and preseason, thus remaining the backup QB for the regular season. In the Chargers' final game of the 2005 season, at home in Qualcomm Stadium, Rivers entered the game after Brees dislocated his right shoulder late in the second quarter due to a hit from Denver Broncos tackle Gerard Warren. Rivers completed 12 of 22 passing attempts for 115 yards with one interception and two fumbles. The Chargers lost to Denver, 20-7. However, Rivers led the Chargers on their only scoring drive that game, which culminated in a 4-yard TD run by RB LaDainian Tomlinson.
After the 2005 season, Drew Brees was not re-signed (partly due to the injury suffered in the Denver game) by the Chargers, instead signing a large contract that included sizeable guaranteed money with the New Orleans Saints during the 2006 free agency period. Many doubted the Chargers' decision to change quarterbacks as they were a Super Bowl contender, believing that Rivers' inexperience would hinder them. Rivers was named the Chargers' starter going into training camp. Expectations were high for Rivers due to the large amount of talent on the San Diego Chargers' offense and the performance of his peers from the 2004 draft (Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger) as starters.
Football Outsiders projected that Rivers would become an NFL star before the 2006 season due to his spectacular completion percentage in college (72% as a senior). After just 5 NFL starts Rivers has been dubbed the second best NFL quarterback under 25 years of age by Sports Illustrated  and drawn numerous comparisons to Dan Marino for his quick release and pocket presence..
On September 11, 2006, Rivers made his first start in pro football against the Oakland Raiders. Rivers managed the game well despite only passing 11 times, but completed 8 passes as well as one TD in a 27-0 rout of the Raiders. After his first game, Rivers led the NFL in QB rating with 133.9.
On November 12, 2006, Rivers had the best game of his short career and led the San Diego Chargers to an improbable comeback against the Cincinnati Bengals. Down 28-7 at Halftime, Rivers led the Chargers on six drives culminating in touchdowns. Rivers himself threw three touchdown passes, while LaDainian Tomlinson scored three of his four rushing touchdowns. San Diego outscored Cincinnati 42-13 in the second half winning the game 49-41. Then the very next week against a strong Denver Broncos defense, the Chargers became the first team in history to win back-to-back games after trailing by 17 or more points and also the first team to win four straight when allowing at least 24 points in each game. Rivers led several 4th quarter comebacks in 2006, and posted the league's highest 4th quarter quarterback rating. Rivers was selected to the 2007 NFL pro-bowl as recognition for his winning ways and comeback ability.
|3 year NFL career||21||490||301||61.4||3536||7.22||23||10||30||73||90.5|
|3 year NFL career||21||54||43||0.8||0||0|
Fumble Recovery Stats
|3 year NFL career||21||11||1||0||0||0|