The Wake Forest campus is nearly deserted by mid-December. Rives stays, delivering gifts, clear up to Christmas Eve in the grimy slums of Winston. "In tough neighborhoods, Santa can go anywhere and not get mugged or have his gifts stolen," Rives says. "And I have to admit: I make a delivery and get back in my car and feel real good about myself. I want this to be a program that lasts forever."
No wonder his mom says, "Of course I love Chip, but more important, I like him." There's a lot to like. He's gregarious, perhaps as a result of having lived in 14 different locales while his dad, Bud, an Army lieutenant colonel, now retired, moved up the ladder. Chip is a child of the holidays—he was born Dec. 24, 1964. He's bright: The military academies wanted him, as did Brown and Cornell. And while he is a football player, he's far more. Says Becky, "He's a leader and he is strong—strong enough to say, I care about people.' He has this soft side." Rives hopes to be picked in the NFL draft but, regardless, will complete his work on an MBA at Wake Forest.
There's a sign in the Deacon football locker room that seems written especially for Rives: TO BE A CHAMPION, DO THE THINGS THE AVERAGE GUY WON'T DO, THE THINGS THE FAILURES GIVE IN TO OR WON'T EVEN ATTEMPT. The Other evening, a weary Rives returned to his apartment—this "victim" of the Christmas spirit has a fully decorated tree, star on top—and said: "You know these kids are out there and somebody needs to help them. I knew I could make it happen. I wasn't thinking, Peace on earth, good will to men. But once it started cranking, I got to thinking that way. And it's hard not to feel good about it."