INDIANAPOLIS — In May, Philip Rivers took a significant step forward in achieving one of his lifelong dreams when he was named the head football coach-in-waiting at St. Michael Catholic High School in Fairhope, Ala.
But if both Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts have their way, that "in-waiting" tag will remain — for the next couple years, at least.
The 38-year-old Rivers in March signed a one-year free agent deal to become the Colts' new starting quarterback, but both sides have acknowledged that with good health and quality play, they hope Rivers' stay in Indy will extend beyond the 2020 season.
"I think it's a one-year-at-a-time deal at this point, when you get to 38 and you've played as long as I have," Rivers said of his opportunity with the Colts, via the Associated Press. "I think you take it one year at a time. We hope it's more than one year, but I think it's one year at a time and go from there."
Rivers has said he had two childhood dreams growing up: playing in the NFL, and following in the footsteps of his father, Steve, who won 188 games in 25 seasons as a high school head football coach, mostly in Alabama.
Rivers has more-than fulfilled his NFL aspirations to this point. He comes to the Colts with 16 years of professional experience, all with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, where he became one of the greatest passers in league history.
An eight-time Pro Bowl selection, Rivers ranks in the top 10 in several statistical categories, including passing attempts (seventh), completions (sixth), completion percentage (ninth), passing yards (sixth), passing touchdowns (sixth), passer rating (10th), first down completions (fifth), completions of 25 yards or more (fifth) and 300-yard passing games (fourth). His 123 career regular season victories as a starter also rank ninth in league history.
But Rivers still feels as if he has plenty left in the tank, and the Colts, led by head coach Frank Reich — Rivers' quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Chargers from 2013-15 — agreed with that assessment after evaluating the QB's game film from the last couple seasons.
"Just having been there on the inside for the three years I was and knowing the quarterback position like I do, I was so confident that physically he was the right player and that he had not lost anything," Reich said. "All of the throws I saw on film and as I go back and studied him compared to previous throws, I really didn't notice any physical gifts diminishing at all.
"There were a lot of good guys out there," Reich continued, referring to the free agent market this offseason. "There were some good quarterbacks out there to look at, but this was the right guy for us."
Rivers, who officially signed with the Colts on March 21, does have a few more items to check off his list in the NFL — most notably, a Super Bowl title. He said the opportunity to compete for a championship certainly played a part in his decision to come to Indy, though it wasn't the only reason.
"Certainly having the opportunity to come here with what this team has built and Chris Ballard and Frank and Mr. (Jim) Irsay and the whole organization, and what they've built and the direction where we're headed here, made it exciting," Rivers said. "It wasn't the only thing. I do still love to play. I love to suit up and play. I love the camaraderie in the locker room. I love being a teammate. I love all that comes with it. The life lessons — still being able to come home after a day's work or come home after a game win or lose, and have good discussions with my children and family about things you've learned and how to deal with things.
"There's still a lot of value in it way beyond trying to lead a team to a championship, but certainly that is the ultimate goal, and having an opportunity to be on a team and be part of the team where that's a realistic goal certainly was a positive."
As for Rivers' second childhood dream, it'll just happen whenever it happens.
Rivers, who played for his dad at the high school level, is looking forward to the opportunity to one day coach his two sons, Gunner and Pete, who are entering the sixth and third grade, respectively. That gives him at least a couple years, if all works out, to make his mark with the Colts before he trades in his helmet for a headset.
"He and I have been talking about this for a long time," Reich said of Rivers' desires to coach after he retires from the NFL. "It's really exciting for me to see that in him. He's football through and through, and that's just one of the things you love about him. He's family through and through. His next step — and he has such a clear vision of that — really just speaks to the kind of person he is. We're certainly excited to have him for however long we get him before he takes that head job."