One of Athens High School's most famous alumni had a brand new experience a few days ago. For the first time in his professional career, Philip Rivers signed a contract with a team other than the Chargers.
Rivers will quarterback the Indianapolis Colts next season after spending the first 16 years of his career with the Chargers, having moved with the team from San Diego to Los Angeles two years ago.
Many people in Athens still remember Rivers, the son of head coach Steve Rivers, who began his Athens football career as a linebacker and didn't even get the full-time starting quarterback job until his junior season.
Rivers has always had his doubters, which makes his shot to stardom even more satisfying for his fans in Athens. He wasn't highly recruited by the big schools in Alabama, and one of the only major conference schools to show interest in him as a quarterback was NC State in Raleigh, North Carolina.
It didn't take long for Rivers to show he had what it takes as a quarterback to play at the major college level. Rivers was a four-year starting quarterback for NC State and broke numerous school records. He was thought of so highly at NC State, the school retired his No. 17 before his final home game in 2003.
Rivers then had an odd draft day experience. He was drafted No. 4 by the New York Giants, which almost immediately traded him to the San Diego Chargers for Eli Manning, who had been drafted No. 1 by the Chargers but would not sign with the organization.
After sitting behind Drew Brees for the first two years of his career, Rivers took the reins of the Chargers offense after Brees signed a free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints in 2006.
Rivers' career took off from there. He led the Chargers to a 14-2 season in his first year as a starter and took the team to the AFC Championship Game in his second.
Unfortunately, that 2007 season was the high-water mark when it came to team accomplishments. While Rivers continued to put up great numbers, the Chargers languished in mediocrity for much of that time, due in part to the lack of stability when it came to the San Diego stadium situation and the possibility of the team moving.
The move finally came to pass in 2017, but the Chargers and Rivers got the short end of the stick because the St. Louis Rams moved to Los Angeles at the same time.
The Rams play in the Los Angeles Coliseum, as a stadium the two teams will share is being built, while the Chargers play in a soccer stadium in Carson that holds fewer than 30,000 people.
Statistically, last season was one of the worst of Rivers' career, and the Chargers endured numerous frustratingly close losses. The time was right for the 38-year-old quarterback to move on. Rivers now gets a fresh start with a franchise that has experienced recent success and plays in a city that loves its team.
Rivers proved his doubters wrong before by having a record-setting college career. He has the chance to prove them wrong again and silence talk that he is washed up and doesn't have what it takes to still be a quality NFL quarterback.
At age 38, Rivers might not have the same skill set he had at 28, but one thing is the same — his toughness and commitment. Those are the things he will lean on as he goes into the 2020 season in an unfamiliar situation. It is those qualities that he will use to try and prove those doubters wrong.
— Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.