Spring 2021 Magazine

Philip Rivers announces retirement, thanks God for allowing him to live out childhood dream

After 17 years and more than 63,000 passing yards, quarterback Philip Rivers is retiring from the NFL. The 39-year-old made the announcement Wednesday in a statement.

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“Every year, January 20th is a special and emotional day. It is St. Sebastian’s Feast day, the day I played in the AFC championship without an ACL, and now the day that after 17 seasons, I’m announcing my retirement from the National Football League. Thank you God for allowing me to live out my childhood dream of playing quarterback in the NFL.”

Rivers closes a career that could put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His 63,440 career passing yards and 421 touchdown passes both rank fifth in NFL history (behind Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre). In 16 seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, Rivers was named to eight Pro Bowls and became the most prolific passer in franchise history (59,271 yards and 397 touchdowns).

In his final season, with the Indianapolis Colts, Rivers surpassed 4,000 passing yards for the 12th time in his career, as he threw for 4,169 yards, 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in leading the team to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance, Rivers’ seventh. The Colts fell to the No. 2-seeded Buffalo Bills in what would be Rivers’ final NFL game. He threw for 309 yards, two touchdowns and no picks in the 27-24 loss.

Bills coach Sean McDermott said Wednesday, via ESPN, that Rivers was “one of the best that I’ve ever been around” among quarterbacks, and described him as a “high-character man and a guy with great core values.”

Rivers’ entrance into the NFL was an interesting one. After an illustrious career at N.C. State, he was technically the fourth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. But the Giants traded him to the Chargers, who selected Ole Miss QB Eli Manning with the No. 1 pick. However, Manning refused to play for the Chargers, who were able to complete a trade with New York that impacted both franchises for years.

After spending his first two years backing up Brees in San Diego, Rivers took over as the Chargers’ starter in 2006, after Brees joined the New Orleans Saints as a free agent. Rivers went on to start 252 consecutive games (including the playoffs) over the next 15 seasons.

Rivers told the San Diego Union-Tribune, which initially reported Rivers’ retirement, that God placed his family in San Diego, where his family lived when eight of his nine children were born.

“I would have never picked San Diego,” said the Alabama native. “Not because I didn’t like it. I didn’t know it. I’m thankful. God put us there.”

Throughout his career, Rivers has leaned on his faith in Christ.

“My faith has always been very important to me,” Rivers told CBN News in 2017. “I think that the center of our marriage and the foundation of our relationship was on Jesus. That is why it’s worked to this point … I hope that God has used me to touch one of you in your faith journey with Jesus.”

Also in 2017, Rivers spoke to San Diego’s The Rock Church, telling pastor Miles McPherson that anytime he’s encountered lows in life, he’s been reminded of his strength in Christ.

“Too many times we think we’ve fallen too far from God or we’re not worthy,” he said. “(It’s) only by God’s mercy and grace. We aren’t worthy, we’re all sinners, but we are because of Jesus dying for us.”

Rivers told the Union-Tribune that he turned to prayer after the 2020 season ended, and soon knew it was time to retire from playing.

“This is the first year I felt like the ending was real,” he said. “We talked about it other years, but we knew we weren’t doing it. This year felt different. … It just seemed right.”

After winning 134 career games (second all-time among quarterbacks that did not win a Super Bowl, and eighth among QBs overall), Rivers will immediately move into coaching high school football. Last year, he was named the head coach-in-waiting at St. Michael Catholic High School in Fairhope, Ala.

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