Football & Faith

An Interview with Philip Rivers

With the NFL playoffs in full swing, here’s an interview with L. A. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Though he lost to the Patriots last week, his witness to his Catholic Faith and Family are powerful. It’s from

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Football & Faith:
An Interview with Philip Rivers

What does a typical day look like for you?  Quite busy! Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday is the bulk of the work week. I leave at 5:30 AM and get home around 6:00 PM. Tuesday we have off so that’s a family day at my house, so the kids enjoy that. In the off season until Easter you’re on your own. It’s our family’s favorite time of year because we’re home and we spend a lot of quality time together. It picks up again as we head into summer. It’s a busy schedule during the season but I appreciate it because you get such a great off season.

You’re known for your passionate style of play. How do you talk trash as a Christian?  I’m known as a trash-talker, but I’m not saying any trash out there. It’s all in fun; just like you would give a little jab to your brother in the backyard, it’s the same way out there. You know, as I grew up with my Dad being my coach, that’s the way he coached – with a great deal of passion and energy. So that’s just the

way I’ve done everything. I play the game like I did when I was a kid in Alabama, even though there’s a lot more cameras and people paying attention. And the “trash-talk,” it’s nothing I couldn’t go home and tell my wife or my mom. But I understand the way anything can be spun by the media. That was a lesson for me.

So you grew up in a Catholic home, and took that into adulthood as a football player. That’s pretty rare for professional athletes, how did you do that?  My mom taught me the Faith. In Alabama there were only like 15 of us in my county in my Confirmation class. We were quite the minority. One thing I remember is when I went to college at North Carolina State, the biggest thing that stuck in my head from my mom was never miss Mass. That was the thing that she definitely got across. When you go to college that’s when the Faith becomes your own. Your mom and dad aren’t waking you up and reminding you “Hey this is a good day to go to Confession.” It’s up to you.

So that really stayed with me and I made sure I never missed Mass and continued to grow in the Faith. My wife had a lot to do with it, she’s a convert and became Catholic the day before we got married. There’s so many gifts from the Faith to appreciate and it strikes people differently, but the one-ness of the Church wherever you are, Raleigh, San Diego, Alabama. Every place we were was home because the Catholic Church is the same everywhere. When we went to Mass that first Sunday after moving to a new place, that was where we felt at home and were able to say “well, home is anywhere, it doesn’t matter where we live because we have the Faith.”

How are you able to make the sacraments a priority with your football schedule, especially on Sundays?  Mass is available for us; there’s a team priest who travels with us. Obviously at home I have the opportunity to go at our parish, either earlier Sunday morning or Saturday mass. But I’ve recently starting visiting the churches in the cities we go to, and it’s that same thing – you feel at home. You’re in the opposing teams city and yet you found Mass there. That’s really special playing on Sunday and being able to go to Mass the day of the game – to play and do something you’re passionate about. I was always worried about that, to be honest, even in college thinking, “How am I going to be able to go to Mass? And if I make the NFL, then what happens?”

Is there any piece of advice that you would give to young people? Appreciate the Faith. Appreciate what we have and what a great gift the sacraments are. It’s hard to see that as a young man but I think that again, they too are the leaders of their age. They grow in their faith and everybody will follow, both their girlfriends and others. And then also, this can apply to their Faith but also to anything else they do, my dad always said that if you’re going to do something – do it all the way. If you’re going to be a Catholic man, be it all the way. If you’re going to clean your room, clean it the right way. You know, all those little things add up and they stick with you.

What kind of temptations and challenges have you had to face as a football player? The biggest key to avoid temptations is to not put yourself in those situations. And it’s not just as a NFL player, it’s in any place, in any city, anything you’re doing, anywhere after dark, after midnight. I think it’s Corinthians 11 says “bad company corrupts good morals.” If you’re not in the wrong but you continue to put yourself in tempting situations eventually you may give in. So that’s always been something I’ve lived by all the way through – don’t put yourself in those situations. Even though you may be strong enough to go somewhere and not fall into the sin, avoiding it will certainly help.

You and your wife are expecting your ninth child, do you have any marriage advice?  I think the biggest thing is to be with your best friend, it starts there, that’s the key I believe. NFP [Natural Family Planning] has a lot to do with the strength of our marriage. It allows the understanding that we’re on the same page. There’s discipline and sacrifice that comes with that so we’re able to bond in many ways. What I’m most thankful for is that we’re both in the Church because you have an immediate bond. I don’t know any of these people here today but I already feel like we’re buddies just because we have that connection to the Church. That was important for my wife to be Catholic as well; she’s been great for me and also as a mom and wife.

Thanks so much, is there anything that you would like prayers for?  Yeah, I can give you many intentions, but I’d certainly be humbled if you prayed for my family and for all the unborn.


Heart, Soul and Mind

Monsignor Royal's weekly column as featured in our bulletin.


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