Philip Rivers played for 17 years in the NFL. He ranks fifth all-time in both touchdown passes and passing yards. But to hear him talk on Thursday night, a game in a small high school stadium on the Gulf Coast of Alabama will rank as one of his most memorable.
Rivers retired after last season and became the head coach at St. Michael Catholic in Fairhope, Alabama. His Cardinals mauled poor McIntosh 49-0 Thursday night after scoring 27 points in the first quarter.
“Tonight was special,” Rivers told local reporters after the game. “I’m looking over and Dad is standing on the track. Mom is in the stands. My boys are spotting the ball. My brother is here coaching. I have nephews and daughters and nieces running around. It was that kind of night, just thinking, ‘Wow, what has happened in 25 years.’”
Longtime NFL QB Philip Rivers talks about the pure joy of high school football following his first win as a head coach at St. Michael. pic.twitter.com/uFKolVujrV
— Ben Thomas (@BenThomasPreps) August 27, 2021
As for the game itself? If you think there aren't flaws to be found in a 49-0 woodshedding, well, you might not be a football coach.
“It was a good win,” Rivers said. “We did some things that were a little sloppy that I’m probably glad they happened now. We can clean them up and the boys can see, ‘Hey, that’s not going to cut it in region play.’ But all in all, we had a lot of different guys touch the ball. All the wideouts touched the ball. We ran it well. It’s a good start, but we have a long way to go.”
Sounds about right for Rivers, who in addition to being one of the most durable players in NFL history — he didn't miss a single start from the beginning of the 2006 season to the end of last year — is also one of the most intense.
Rivers' Cardinals were so dominant that both teams agreed to cut the second half to two six-minute quarters. Six different Cardinal players scored, and St. Michael held McIntosh to 28 yards rushing and minus-2 yards passing. McIntosh drew 10 penalties, while St. Michael had none. This was, to put it politely, not a clash of titans. But Rivers still had time to swim in a bit of nostalgia and the emotion of the moment.
“After playing 50-something college games and 250-something NFL games, those Thursday and Friday nights in high school, being around it at Decatur High [in Alabama] growing up and playing, they are some of my favorite memories,” Rivers said. “They are in the top 10. I can think of a handful right now. It’s awesome. I’m trying to remind these kids of that because most of them aren’t going to play beyond high school football. We have a handful that can play at the next level and want to, and I want them to want to. But I also want them to appreciate experiences like this. You won a football game. Be excited. It’s awesome, and I’m enjoying the heck out of it.”
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.