NY Times Rivers Article

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Aug 24, 2005
A Master Plan, Pursued a Pass at a Time

Published: August 28, 2006

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 23 — Philip Rivers has been involved with stadium development since he was about 6 years old.

Back then, he was painting end zones and chalking yard lines on his lawn. He brought in benches and stocked them with towels and water bottles. He took pylons from a local high school. His parents did not know if they had a quarterback or an architect.

“We would go to games and he would want to watch the grounds crew,” said Steve Rivers, Philip’s father. “It was his fascination.”

Now, on a somewhat larger scale, Rivers is trying to help build a field for the San Diego Chargers.

This is a lot to ask of a 24-year-old quarterback who has never taken a meaningful snap in the National Football League. But if Rivers does everything else asked of him this season — save the coach’s job, preserve the superstar’s prime and guide the Chargers deep into the playoffs — he may get that field built after all.

“I know stadium issues are complicated, but you’d think we have some say-so as a team,” Rivers said. “We win, and I believe it works out.”

If they do not have a stadium deal in San Diego County by Jan. 1, the Chargers, who were 9-7 last season, are free to negotiate with other cities and move after the 2008 season. Players have a simple theory on the matter: the more passes Rivers completes, and the more games the Chargers win, the more the county will want a new house for its team.

“Winning helps tremendously,” said Mark Fabiani, the Chargers’ special counsel. “I’ve done hundreds of community meetings, and when we were 4-12, people blamed everything on the Chargers. They are more willing to listen now.”

Rivers will not be speaking at town halls, but his voice is a crucial part of his game. Growing up in Decatur, Ala., Rivers took the school bus to the football field where his father coached a high school team. He would listen to all the coaches and study their mannerisms, then go home to his field in the backyard and mimic them.

He learned to talk as if he were always in the middle of a huddle, emphasizing his words with gestures. When Rivers wants to make a point, he places his hand on your elbow or your shoulder, a subtle way to command eye contact.

“The guy is a born leader,” said Antonio Gates, the Chargers’ starting tight end. “Watch how he interacts with everybody. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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