INDIANAPOLIS — Philip Rivers might've spent the first 16 years of his NFL career as an occasional thorn in the side of Indianapolis Colts fans, but, oh how the tables have turned.
Entering free agency for the first time in his illustrious career earlier this offseason, Rivers in March signed a one-year deal to become the Colts' new starting quarterback heading into the 2020 season.
After a combined 239 career regular season and postseason games played with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, Rivers certainly is entering a new chapter — but the same can be said for Colts fans, who all of a sudden have one of the greatest passers in NFL history guiding their offense once again.
So who, exactly, is Philip Rivers? This week, hundreds of Colts season ticket members got an up-close-and-personal introduction to their new quarterback — and also heard from head coach Frank Reich — in the team's latest virtual edition of "Colts Chat."
More than 800 fans registered for the event Wednesday evening, and of that group, 140 of them — almost 20 percent — have been Colts season ticket holders for more than two decades. Going deeper: 40 fans who participated in this week's exclusive Colts Chat with Rivers and Reich have held season tickets with the team since its move to Indianapolis in 1984.
(For more information on becoming a Colts season ticket member, and to have access to exclusive events like Wednesday's Colts Chat, click here.)
So what were some of the top takeaways from Rivers' and Reich's Q&A session with the fans this week?
* » Rivers has always come away impressed with Indianapolis and Colts fans:* Rivers played the Colts eight total times throughout his first 16 years with the Chargers, and, to the chagrin of his new fans, the eight-time Pro Bowler came out victorious in six of those matchups.
Rivers played three of those eight games in Indianapolis, winning two of them, including a certain Divisional Round matchup following the 2007 season that ended the Colts' high hopes for back-to-back Super Bowl titles.
But every time Rivers flew in to Indianapolis — whether to take on the Colts, or just visiting — he said he'd head home with a certain appreciation for the city and its fans that wasn't necessarily the case elsewhere.
In fact, Rivers said the Colts' fanbase, and the opportunity to live in the Indianapolis area, was a major reason why he decided to sign with the team in March.
"I don't just say this: years and years of playing the Colts and against this franchise … I just had great respect for this organization over the years," Rivers told host Larra Overton. "Obviously Mr. Irsay, from the ownership and his ownership team, down to Chris Ballard, and obviously my relationship with Frank (Reich), I've just had a lot of respect in the past — and obviously, with who is in charge now — it's just a well-run, first-class organization.
"And I would come home from Colts games and tell my wife and family that, like, 'I don't know, there's something about that place. The fan base, the atmosphere in the stadium, I see families everywhere, they know when to cheer, they know when to be quiet,' and all those things," Rivers continued. "So it kind of goes way back, and then obviously getting to now, it just kind of all worked out, and certainly thankful to be here."
» Rivers' all-time favorite movie? None other than Hoosiers: 10-year-old Colts fan Grant asked Rivers as a fellow newbie to Indiana what he was looking forward to most as he became a transplanted Hoosier?
Rivers, who just was able to move to the Indianapolis area with his wife and nine children within the past week, dropped a little nugget indicating that perhaps he's been in-tune with the Indiana lifestyle longer than some might've imagined.
"Thanks for the question, Grant. You're going to enjoy it just as much as me and my family are," Rivers said. "I don't know yet — it's still too new for me. I also can say Hoosiers is my favorite movie."
Rivers said he's had a Hoosiers poster featuring a famous quote from main character Jimmy Chitwood — "I'll make it" — in his quarterbacks room for years.
"I have a Hickory Gym sweatshirt," Rivers continued. "I was able to ride over to Milan and see that gym right there where kind of the whole movie was (based) … so I've always had a love for Indy from afar in a weird way, and it's ironic that it's ended up here in now my 17th season, and hopefully a few more that I'm gonna be a Colt."
» A father of nine, Rivers gave some solid advice to a future first-time father: Faith, family and football. It may sound like a cliche, but that's exactly how Rivers lives his life.
And as a husband and a father of nine children — the oldest of which is just about to begin college — Rivers certainly has all sorts of experiences to draw from when it comes to raising a family. Colts season ticket member Nick and his wife are expecting their first child in October, and asked Rivers if he had any advice for a first-time dad?
"Well congrats, Nick. That's awesome," Rivers said. "There is nothing like it. Whether they're No. 1 or No. 9, as I've experienced, and all in-between. You do not get used to it. It is a miracle in and of itself, and is wonderful. So all the best to you and congratulations.
"I think the biggest thing, and obviously I don't know if it's a boy or girl, and either one I think I would say the same thing, is they want our time. You know what I mean?" Rivers continued. "I think that's the biggest thing that I've learned throughout, again, raising one that'll be sent off to college, and now the others that we have here under our roof, is they want our time. And so as a dad, obviously you're the leaders of the household and you're out and about and working and doing so many things, but you want to give them as much time as you can. I think that's the biggest lesson I've learned."
Rivers said it's easy to get distracted in today's world, but even if it's just a few minutes at a time, it can make a difference for a child.
"So give 'em your time, Nick, the best you can," Rivers said. "Be engaged. And I will say this: an old Kenny Chesney song, 'Don't Blink,' I love that song, but don't blink, because just like that, they will be going off to college in no time."
» Reich is confident it won't take long for Colts fans to embrace their new quarterback: Rivers' signing with the Colts this offseason was a reunion of sorts for the quarterback and three former coaches who used to be on the offensive staff with the Chargers in Reich, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and tight ends coach Jason Michael.
In fact, Reich and Sirianni spent three years together with Rivers from 2013-15, the last two of which Reich spent as his offensive coordinator and Sirianni as quarterbacks coach. During that span, Rivers ranked, on average, second in the NFL in completion percentage, fifth in passing yards, fifth in touchdown passes, sixth in passer rating, seventh in fewest interceptions and ninth in yards per pass attempt.
That familiarity was key as the Colts began evaluating the possible options available to them at the quarterback position this offseason, and now that Rivers is officially on board, Reich said "it's been fun to get re-acquainted" with the QB.
"He's just a great competitor," Reich said. "He's extremely intelligent, in every way, but football-wise this guy is a savant. Really. I mean, brilliant, brilliant, smart football-wise. And then he's a great teammate."
Reich said Rivers has "made his presence known" during the team's virtual team meetings the past couple months, but he can't wait for the Colts fans to see that same passion on the field.
"You know, we've all rooted against Philip when he's come and played against the Colts and that fiery personality he has, but I think our fans, as they get to see him as a player and as a person, they're going to really come to appreciate that this is a kind of guy that will be proud to wear the Horseshoe and will represent us in a way our fans will enjoy."
» This year's offseason program has opened Reich's eyes to future uses for virtual meetings: The COVID-19 pandemic led the NFL to close team facilities across the league, creating a need for players and coaches to conduct virtual offseason workout programs from their respective homes as they adhere to various social distancing measures.
And after successfully completing most of that virtual offseason program, as well as conducting the league's first-ever virtual draft back in April, Reich is convinced that some aspects of this offseason could continue to be instituted into his program moving forward.
While there's no substitute for actually being together with the team, Reich can see some instances in which virtual meetings would be a welcomed change.
"I think we'll continue to use the Zoom," Reich said. "Like, for instance, like in the old days, you know, the quarterbacks would always, on the day off, would come in to kind of get a preview of the game plan. And I think of our current (situation), with Philip as the quarterback and him having nine children and you get a day off, and you have to come in and get a preview (of the upcoming game), there's no reason why we can't go over some of this stuff via Zoom, where he can be home with his family. It's less time driving in, driving out, things like that."
Reich also mentioned he believed general manager Chris Ballard was looking forward to utilizing some aspects of virtual meetings in the draft process moving forward.
"I think it can apply to, in the offseason, staying in touch with players," Reich said. "And even when we get certain periods of time where we have to communicate with them, just on a personal level, this has been a good thing."