RALEIGH The 5,236 graduates were the main reason for N.C. State’s commencement ceremony at PNC Arena on Saturday morning but Philip Rivers stole the show. Rivers re-wrote the school, ACC and NCAA record books while playing quarterback for the Wolfpack from 2000 to ’03, and he returned to N.C. State on Saturday to give a heart-felt and inspired 11-and-a-half minute commencement speech.
Before Rivers gave his address, David Powers, from the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, told the crowd he has met six presidents but he was “still in awe in getting to share the stage with Philip Rivers.”
In a traditional black graduation gown, and a red tie with white stripes, Rivers, 30, spoke about his passion for football and his family, and his priorities. Nine years in southern California as a star NFL quarterback for the San Diego Chargers has smoothed some of the edges of his Southern accent but with the same haircut, and square jaw, he looked virtually the same as he did when he graduated from N.C. State almost nine years ago. As if the amped-up crowd needed a reason to be more excited by the return of one of its most famous alums, Rivers provided an extra charge when he started his speech.
“Wow,” Rivers said after the initial ovation waned. “I gotta tell you, standing in front of the Wolfpack family again, it makes me want to run out of the tunnel at Carter-Finley Stadium just one more time.” Rivers led the Wolfpack to a school-record 11 wins in 2002 and was the ACC Player of the Year in 2003. A four-year starter, he finished his career in ’03 as the second-leading passer in NCAA history (with 13,494 passing yards) and with his No. 17 jersey retired.