San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers hosted his first local youth football camp at UCSD over the weekend, giving 200 kids a dream camp experience with an NFL pro. The Old Spice Philip Rivers Football Camp was also about giving back to the community, as all proceeds went toward his recently established Rivers of Hope Foundation, which aims to help abandoned and orphaned children.
At camp, Rivers announced he would be contributing a $25,000 grant to San Diego's Angels Foster Family Network.
Director and Founder Cathy Richman said the donation is coming at the right time - the organization is seeing more battered babies than ever. Richman said she believes the situation is reflective of the poor economy and they are doing all they can to find infants a special family and caring home.
"What you've given is making a huge difference," Richman told Rivers. "On behalf of all the babies, thank you."
Rivers said he looks forward to a continuing partnership with the Angels group, the importance of a loving family not lost on this father of five. Of the five Rivers kids, there's "only one boy in the bunch," but Rivers said he tosses passes to all when they're running around in the yard.
While campers ages 7-14 learned football fundamentals from a staff of 20 of the area's top prep coaches, Rivers said he hopes the youngsters take away a lesson that is bigger than football.
His target was to help children learn to "Have a hope, have a dream and be enthused about what they do," he said.
Campers learned about all positions of the game, but a session on quarterbacking had Rivers as pumped up as he is on game day Sundays. If you blinked, you'd miss him as he tirelessly ran around to each station, eager to interact with every kid. He was engaging and encouraging, easily dispensing compliments and high-fives.
Rivers instructed the older group of kids, around age 14, about being commanding in the huddle.
"You're in charge of the whole game," Rivers chirped. "You can't be shy."
With the younger group of 7-year-olds, Rivers crouched down with his hands on his knees and told a tiny QB, "Say, 'set hut,' " he said.
"Say, set hut," the youngster said, repeating his hero's words verbatim before he chucked the ball as Rivers broke into a grin.
Rivers said he loves being around the children and was getting a kick out of being called Coach Rivers.
"I'm having a blast, seeing the smiles on the kids' faces," Rivers said. "The coach is in me. It's in my blood."
Rivers said he never had an opportunity as a youth to learn football from a pro, but he did learn a lot about the game from his father, who was his high school football coach.
Over the weekend, there were many of his father's lessons he found himself repeating. A biggie was his dad's instructions to give it all you have, even when it's just a drill.
"If you're going to do it, do it all the way, do it as hard as you can," Rivers said, noting even in his camp's casual atmosphere he was telling the children to "go, go, go" with hearty claps.
Rivers said he has hopes to be a coach in some fashion in the future, inspired by the impression his father left on his players, some even sending letters of thanks 20 years later.
"Things like that make coaching special, when you can have an impact and they remember it years down the road," Rivers said.