Local News

NCSU's Rivers Picked Fourth Overall, Then Traded To Chargers For Top Pick

Posted April 25, 2004 11:57 a.m. EDT

— The New York Giants made North Carolina State University quarterback Philip Rivers the second-highest NFL draft pick in Wolfpack history Saturday, then traded him to the San Diego Chargers for top pick Eli Manning and three future picks.

Manning and his family requested that the Chargers not select the Mississippi quarterback. But San Diego drafted him, anyway.

An hour later, after the Giants chose Rivers, the trade was announced.

Manning joined brother Peyton, the NFL's co-MVP last season, and father Archie in being picked in the first two spots of a draft.

Peyton went first overall in 1998 to Indianapolis, and Archie was the No. 2 pick in 1971. The Mannings are the first family to have three players selected in the first round of the draft.

Rivers, meanwhile, became NCSU's fifth top-10 pick. He was the higest pick since quarterback Roman Gabriel was among the top two picks in 1962, when both the AFL and NFL held drafts.

Rivers made a big name for himself in four seasons with the Wolfpack, leading the team to a bowl game each season. In 2003, Rivers was voted the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year.

Unlike Manning, Rivers will have no problem playing in San Diego, where he will challenge Drew Brees and Doug Flutie as the 4-12 team attempts to rebuild yet again.

"I'm fired up to be a Charger," he said during a conference call. "That's one thing that the town of San Diego and the fans are going to get is a guy who wants to be there and be a part of it."

Rivers is best known for his unorthodox delivery, but concerns have faded.

"If you throw for a 70-percent completion rate, you're OK," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

Rivers completed 72 percent of his passes last year, with 34 touchdown passes. In four seasons, he threw 95 touchdown passes and completed 64 percent of his passes.

As recently as four months ago, Rivers was projected as a late first-round or even a second-round pick. Moreover, prior to Saturday, the Giants were not listed among the teams seriously interested in Rivers. The Giants wanted Mannning.

But Rivers' stock rose during the winter. The Giants sensed San Diego also liked Rivers.

For Rivers, his NFL future began to take shape in the Senior Bowl. He not only demonstrated he could make all the throws, but he worked with Schottenheimer and the San Diego coaching staff.

Rivers' rise up the draft board also should be worth some big money. Going number four instead of No. 24 could be the difference between $10 million and less than $1 million.

The crowd at Madison Square Garden booed lustily as Eli Manning held up a No. 1 Chargers jersey and a hat in his hand. They cheered just as loudly when commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced the trade.

"It is nothing new; I've heard boos before," Manning said. "I've been in a lot of stadiums where they've booed."

In the trade, the Chargers got New York's third-round pick this year and the Giants' first and fifth-rounders in 2005, in addition to Rivers, whose stock soared after private workouts and interviews.

With the second pick, Oakland selected Iowa tackle Robert Gallery. Arizona also did the expected, taking wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who was eligible after his sophomore season because he attended prep school before going to Pitt.

Before the start of the draft, Tagliabue paid tribute to Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals safety who gave up his NFL career to serve as an Army Ranger and was killed this week in Afghanistan.

"Pat Tillman personified the best values of America and of the National Football League," Tagliabue said, flanked by five Marines. "Like other men and women protecting our freedom around the globe, he made the ultimate sacrifice and gave his life for his country."

Tagliabue wore a black ribbon with Tillman's name on it and a Cardinals helmet pin with the No. 40 attached. Tillman's Arizona Cardinals jersey was hung below a video screen, along with a photo of the former safety.

A moment of silence then was held in Tillman's honor, after which the crowd at Madison Square Garden chanted "U.S.A., U.S.A."