Commentary

Stephen Rivers goes his own way

Stephen doesn't follow Philip's path to NC State, but looks and plays just like his big bro

Originally Published: August 11, 2010
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN Recruiting

The most famous sibling quarterback duo is unquestionably the Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli. The two starred at Tennessee and Ole Miss, respectively, before becoming No. 1-overall picks in the NFL draft and winning Super Bowls for the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants.

But now the Rivers brothers -- Philip and Stephen -- are trying to give them a little competition.

You've heard of the older brother, Philip Rivers. He quarterbacked NC State (2000-03) before becoming the No. 4-overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft and being part of the trade that sent him to the San Diego Chargers and Eli Manning to the New York Giants.

Rivers
Kirk Harvey/Athens HSStephen Rivers threw for 22 TDs and over 2,100 yards last season.
You might not have heard of Stephen Rivers yet. But you will. Stephen plays at Athens (Ala.) High School, where Philip once played, but instead of following the family legacy to Raleigh, Stephen chose a different path and committed to LSU on Friday.

"I went to the LSU camp a few weeks ago," Stephen said. "I got to work with the coaches and saw everything first hand. They have some of the best facilities in the country. When I was there everything just clicked in for me. This was the place that I thought was the best for me."

Stephen, 6-foot-7 and 200 pounds, could have gone to UCLA, NC State, Mississippi State or many other places. There were plenty of ties to those schools. His father, Steve, and Philip both played for the Wolfpack, or he could have been coached at UCLA by Norm Chow, Philip's first offensive coordinator at NC State.

"You know in the state of Alabama you grow up an Alabama or Auburn fan, but not the Rivers family," Athens coach Allen Creasy said. "They have been neutral within the state, much like when Philip came out. There was no pressure from them or anyone on where he should go, including NC State. It was the same with Philip. Stephen did what was best for him."

Creasy knows both players inside and out. Back during Philip's high school days, he was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach working under Steve Rivers, who was the head coach at the time. (He's the QBs coach now.) As a 10th-grader, Philip was a starting linebacker before taking over at quarterback as a junior and senior.

"Stephen is taller now than Philip and he throws the ball better than Philip did at the same stage" Creasy said. "But to be fair to Philip, Stephen has had many more opportunities. If we threw the ball 15 times a game it was considered airing it out when Philip was here.

"But Stephen has the same physical attributes as Philip. You will never see him make the same two throws in a row. He will do whatever is necessary to make a play, to win a game. They are the same way in that regard. Stephen is very accurate and has unique ability to change motion depending on the throw he has to make, just like Philip. And Stephen is more athletic than Philip. For a 6-7 kid he can move in the pocket."

Philip wasn't considered a big-time quarterback prospect when he left Athens High School in 2000. Maybe it was his throwing motion or the lack of a big arm. But he was the very first recruit that Chuck Amato went to see after winning a national title at FSU and becoming the coach at his alma mater, NC State. In hindsight, the recruiting analysts and many college coaches fell into the upside trap, meaning they didn't see much development potential in Philip. But he had a spectacular college career in Raleigh and is now one of the top QBs in the NFL.

"A lot of that recruiting stuff had to do with his throwing motion and we just didn't showcase him. We were trying to win football games with what we had. But we knew he was that good. I remember coach [Tommy] Tuberville came to see Philip play and they already had a commitment from Jason Campbell. We threw it like five times that night. We were driving late and we wanted to throw the ball but Philip insisted we run it to win the game. That's the type of player he is. It's just a game to him. It's just a game to Stephen. They just want to win. They are both eternal 15-year-olds playing the game they love.

"Much of that is from their dad. They were raised that as a quarterback everything is their fault; that you have to have a sense of urgency on every play because the team's success hinges on their success."

Steve says it in simpler terms -- his sons just inherited his love of the game.

"I am just a football coach and football has always been important in my life. I have coached for 36 years and football was important to me at an early age. I developed a passion and that passion rubbed off on Philip and Stephen," he said. "It's something just in our family. My boys saw me in a leadership role and just picked up on that. They want to be the guy in charge. They both did and they have a love and passion for the game just like me."

Fast forward to today's recruiting rankings and Stephen is currently rated as a three-star prospect and the No. 55 quarterback prospect in the country. Can history repeat itself?

"I do think people are overlooking him," Creasy said. "But it's nobody's fault. You can't miss on a quarterback because it's a lost scholarship if you do. We see him every day and know what he can do and how effectively he can throw the ball. There is no doubt he will be a great player."

Last season as a junior, Stephen completed 61 percent of his passes for over 2,100 yards and 22 touchdowns. That's despite playing five of the last six games in the rain, which limited his passing opportunities. Stephen knows he has a lot to learn and much to do, but he also has a lot of experience that most other QBs do not.

"I was about six, seven and eight years old when Philip was in high school," Stephen said. "I was a water boy and dad was the head coach. I have always been around football and in the huddle. I watched Philip and my dad every day. Dad always taught us to be a leader, to take change and be a leader. A quarterback also needs to be a coach on the field. That's the job we have to do. Philip tells me the same things. He also says to make smart decisions and work hard."

Despite the age difference, Philip, 28, and Stephen, 17, are extremely close. There's not a day that goes by where they don't get together in some way. They talk, text, Skype. They also possess one other common bond.

"One trait they both share is they are competitive," Creasy said. "I mean super, super, super competitive from everything to tying their shoes to throwing touchdown passes. These two just don't expect to lose at anything they do. Ever."

That's a good thing, especially for Les Miles and LSU, because at the end of the day, it's all about winning. For Stephen Rivers, he still has a senior year ahead of him, but he's already looking west to the Bayou, where he can't wait to get to Baton Rouge and start competing with the LSU quarterbacks.

"I think I have a chance to be pretty good in that LSU offense," Stephen said. "I am a pocket passer that can run and I am good on my feet. I will do what is necessary to win and be successful. I know they have some older guys there like Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. But I will get my chance to compete and that's all I can ask for."

Certainly there is a certain amount of pressure for any quarterback recruit to enter the mix in the SEC or any other major conference in college football. But it's added pressure to a player like Rivers because people believe he has to live up to the last name.

"The pressure is there but I don't think much about it," Stephen said. "To me, it's more of a challenge. Philip and I are really close. I know I don't have to live up to what he did. But as brothers and as competitors, I try and beat him in everything whether it's video games or horse. It's more of a challenge between me and him than trying to live up to all the expectations."

If Stephen can do as well as Philip, or even beat him, the Manning brothers just might have to watch out.

Seferian-Jenkins
Seferian-Jenkins
Instant impact
On August 16th, four-star prospect Austin Seferian-Jenkins, from Gig Harbor (Wash.) HS, will announce his decision. Seferian-Jenkins, who is No. 107 in the ESPNU 150, will decide between Texas and Washington.

This is one of the more intriguing decisions this summer simply because of the schools involved. First, you have the home-state Huskies under second-year coach Steve Sarkisian, who has the program on the rise. But to get to their ultimate destination, the Huskies have to land the marquee, in-state guy like Seferian-Jenkins. There's no other way to put it. He's a must get.

Surprisingly, it's Texas, not USC or Oregon, that the Huskies are fighting for the prospect in their own backyard. But coach Mack Brown and Texas have broadened their recruiting reach, especially over the past recruiting season or two. Because the Longhorns have so much talent in their backyard, they don't have to venture out of state all that much. But it's becoming clear that when they do, you better be concerned if you are recruiting against them.

So will it be just another All-American for Brown and Texas, or will Sarkisian add another piece to his puzzle in rebuilding the Huskies? Seferian-Jenkins, the No. 10-rated tight end in the nation, caught 63 passes for 1,076 yards (17.1 average) and 11 touchdowns last year as a junior. He could be a big tight end, or he could grow into an offensive tackle. Either way, he's an elite prospect and his decision will have more impact than most.

Decision time for Waisome
Under Armour All-American cornerback Nick Waisome, who is No. 62 in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 2 CB in the country, is one week away from making his college selection. This four-star recruit from Southlake (Fla.) Groveland will announce on the Recruiting Insider Show on Wednesday, Aug. 18 on ESPNU and decide between Florida, FSU, South Carolina, Georgia and LSU.

This will be the season preview Recruiting Insider on ESPNU, focusing on the top 150 prospects in the nation, starting at 8 p.m. ET. The Recruiter Insider series will begin on Sept. 2.

Chickillo
Chickillo
Chickillo clears things up
There are been some rumors that four-star Tampa (Fla.) Alonso defensive end Anthony Chickillo would be announcing his decision alongside Waisome next week. But according to this ESPNU 150 member, he hopes to have a decision next month, not next week.

"I think I will be ready to do something next month," Chickillo said. "I mean I think so. I am still talking with my family. Right now I am about 85 percent sure that I will be ready but I won't do anything until I am 100 percent. I need to be ready."

Chickillo, an Under Armour All-American who is No. 80 in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 8 defensive end in the nation, is considering Miami, Florida, FSU, USF, Alabama and Tennessee.

"I don't think I will need any [official] visits," he said. "I just need to figure it out. That's all."

Chickillo just started two-a-day practices and he's ready to have a big senior season after missing some time due to a collar bone injury last year as a junior.

"I am feeling good although it's hot out there," Chickillo said. "Last season I got 12½ sacks in six games. This year I want to break the county record for sacks which is 27."

Backs running to the West Coast
Much has been made about the Pac-10 going national to gain exposure for the league and its teams. Naturally, recruiting should benefit. One Pac-10 team that has done a better job nationally is Cal and that trend continued yesterday as the Bears landed one of the top backs from Texas in Daniel Lasco from The Woodlands HS. He's a four-star recruit and the No. 16-ranked running back in the nation.

Oregon State went to the Show Me State to land Malcolm Agnew, a running back from St. Louis De Smet Jesuit High School. He committed on Monday.

Kouandijio
Kouandijio
Five-star narrows list to a lucky 11
Five-star offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandijio from Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic, recently narrowed down his school to 11 schools: Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Miami, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, USC and Virginia. It is expected that Alabama is the team to beat. The Crimson Tide signed his brother, Arie, back in February. Kouandijio, 6-7 and 325 pounds, is No. 6 in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 2 OT in the country.

Iowa lands big-time OL
The Hawkeyes picked up one of the nation's top offensive guard prospects Monday as Jordan Walsh committed to Iowa. Walsh, 6-3 and 275 pounds, is the country's No. 13-rated offensive guard. He is from Glen Ellyn (Ill.) HS.

A name to remember
There's another prospect on the rise at Georgia power Columbus Carver. His name is Marquis Hawkins and he has the look of a big-time recruit. Only a sophomore, this 6-3, 205-pound prospect is starting to gain a lot of attention. Both Florida and Troy have made verbal offers and other teams are starting to inquire about him. Insiders at Carver believe he will be a national recruit in the Class of 2013. Hawkins projects right now as a wide receiver, but he also plays quarterback and safety.

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.