The Rivers' End
QB to start record 50th game for Wolfpack, cap off decorated career
Posted: Monday November 17, 2003 6:32PM; Updated: Monday November 17, 2003 6:32PM
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- There's little argument the greatest player in North Carolina State football history will walk off the field at Carter-Finley Stadium for the last time Saturday night.
Better than Roman Gabriel, better than Ted Brown or Torry Holt.
Philip Rivers will start his NCAA record 50th straight game at quarterback, having logged more than 3,000 plays, completed more than 1,100 passes and thrown for 13,000 yards.
"That's a lot of real estate, a lot of real estate," coach Chuck Amato said Monday.
Any Wolfpack fan who took the gunslinging QB from Alabama for granted will realize his value when he's in the NFL and his bevy of Atlantic Coast Conference passing records appear more gaudy with each passing year.
If there was any justice, Rivers would have won one or two ACC championships for the Wolfpack, and maybe the Heisman Trophy.
But it wasn't to be and college football's top individual award is likely out of reach with a 7-4 record.
The program will have to settle for four straight bowl appearances and a ton of positive national publicity that can't be measured in dollars.
"He's been bigger than what you can imagine," Amato said. "Every time his name and the university are mentioned it helps us in recruiting and exposure. He's a big, big part of that."
Amato reminisced about Rivers' first outing in 2000, an overtime victory against lowly Arkansas State in which the freshman QB led the Wolfpack on drives at the end of each half to save the day in a rainstorm at Carter-Finley.
"We didn't have a crystal ball back then but that was just a sign of things to come," Amato said.
"I can remember like it was yesterday, running out against Arkansas State and being amazed at all the people," Rivers said. "I was scanning the crowd. I was glad we were on defense first or I would have been awful for a while."
Now when Rivers looks around, he sees thousands of kids wearing his No. 17 jersey.
"That's an honor to see all those young boys doing that," Rivers said. "That's something I would have never thought would happen.
"Seeing it for the first time walking in a mall I said, 'What in the world is going on?' Hype from the outside is not what I play for or what comes to my mind."
Rivers has remained humble and polite despite his stardom _ qualities that have made him even more endearing and popular with students, fans, coaches and the media.
He's still more comfortable talking about the team than his individual accomplishments.
"Just to know that I came in when (coach Amato) did and to be a part of every game is great," he said. "Looking back, we had successful teams. We got the foundation set for what I hope will be big in the future."
No matter what happens Saturday against Maryland, Rivers will walk to the locker room with his head held high.
"For the most part I've done a good job of moving on and not letting the past bother me," Rivers said. "I take losses as bad as anybody, but there is nothing you can do about the losses or the mistakes.
"I'll have thoughts of the Florida State and Ohio State losses _ certainly. But regrets, none come to mind."
Despite coming from SEC country, Rivers said he'll now be a Wolfpack rooter for life.
"Twenty years down the road I can see myself late in the game watching on a knee in front of the TV, fussing or getting excited. I'll be a fan and a supporter forever."