Philip Rivers retiring after 17-year NFL career

One of the greatest NC State athletes of all time hangs up his cleats

FILE - Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers is shown on the sidelines during an NFL football game between the Colts and Baltimore Ravens in Indianapolis, in this Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, file photo. On Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, the 39-year-old Indianapolis Colts quarterback announced his retirement. (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger, File)

INDIANAPOLIS — Longtime NFL quarterback Philip Rivers has decided to retire after playing one year in Indianapolis.

“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,” Rivers said in a statement on the Colts’ website. “Thank you God for allowing me to live out my childhood dream of playing quarterback in the NFL. I am grateful to the Chargers for 16 seasons, and the Colts for the 17th season.”

Rivers’ decision comes less than two weeks after the Colts’ lost 27-24 at Buffalo in a wild-card game.

North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers (17) drops back to pass during his team’s 17-15 win over Clemson on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2003, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Grant Halverson)

Rivers was an all-time great for the NC State Wolfpack. He was the 2000 ACC Rookie of the Year and the 2003 ACC Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year. After a senior season where he shattered nearly every NC State and ACC passing record and set an NCAA record with 51 straight starts, Rivers was the fourth pick in the NFL Draft. Rivers spent his first 16 seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers after being acquired in a draft-day trade that sent the top overall pick, Eli Manning, to the New York Giants in 2004. Manning went on to win two Super Bowls with the Giants and retired after last season.

While the 39-year-old Rivers never played in a Super Bowl, it was one of the few glaring omissions on an otherwise remarkable resume.

Rivers spent his first two years in San Diego backing up Drew Brees before taking over as the starter when Brees left in free agency.

Over the next 15 years, Rivers never missed another game, starting all 252 including the playoffs. He even played on a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the AFC championship game following the 2007 season.

“It’s certainly important to me and I’m thankful that I’ve been healthy enough to be out there,” Rivers said in November when asked about the streak. “I do think there is something about that availability, being there each and every week. Certainly, there are circumstances that you can’t, but thankfully I’ve been able to. I think there is a fine line there. You don’t just try to keep that alive to keep it alive.”

Rivers’ NFL career came after the Decatur, Alabama, quarterback spent four record-breaking seasons at NC State. Rivers threw for more than 13,000 yards and 95 touchdowns for the Wolfpack, leading NC State to a 34-17 record and a landmark Gator Bowl win over Notre Dame that capped a 2002 season with a program-best 11-3 record.

He then took his unusual, shot put-like throwing motion to the NFL, where he had even greater success.

FILE – In this Oct. 27, 2019, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Rivers won 134 career games — No. 2 among quarterbacks without a Super Bowl ring — and is eighth all-time. Only Tom Brady (230), two-time Super Bowl champs Peyton Manning (186) and Ben Roethlisberger (156), Brees (172) and Hall of Famers Brett Favre (186), John Elway (148) and Dan Marino (147) won more regular-season games.

Rivers also finished his career ranked fifth in career completions (5,277), yards passing (63,440) and touchdown passes (421).

And he didn’t slow down in 2020.

Instead, he played better the longer the season went — perhaps not a surprise considering he joined a new team and had almost no offseason work with his new receivers because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through Indy’s first five games, Rivers threw five interceptions and four TD passes. Over the final 12, he had 22 TD passes and six interceptions. His completion percentage (68%) was the second highest of his career and he led the Colts to an 11-5 mark and their second playoff appearance since 2015 .

He did all of it while playing the final seven games with an injured toe on his right foot.

And yet as he continued his quest for that elusive championship season, Rivers had already been making plans for his post-playing days.

Last summer, he accepted the head coaching job at St. Michael Catholic High School in Fairhope, Alabama, where he hopes to coach his sons — just like his father coached him.

“If (the future) is here, in Indy playing another year then we’ll be here,” Rivers said following the season finale. “If it’s not I’ll be on a sideline somewhere — I know where — I’ll be on the sideline with a ball cap coaching the heck out of a high school football team down in south Alabama.”

Rivers was selected to eight Pro Bowls and holds the Chargers’ franchise records in every major passing category.