Originally created 04/21/01

Lakeside High standout anxious about NFL draft



From the fourth round to the seventh round to no round at all, David Rivers has heard plenty of projections about where he'll be selected in today's NFL Draft.

"I'm kind of anxious," said Rivers, a former Lakeside High standout. "It's kind of weird not knowing what city you're going to be in, or where you're going to be, or what exactly you're going to be doing. I'm just going to kind of wait it out and see what happens."

Whatever happens, Rivers probably won't be too disappointed. He has only two years as a starting quarterback to his credit - the first his senior year at Lakeside, and the second his senior year at Western Carolina after three disappointing seasons as a backup for Virginia.

"I feel good about it," said Rivers (pronounced RYE-vers). "I've heard a lot of good things from teams and had a lot of good conversations."

The 23-year-old returned to his Augusta home last week after spending almost two months working out in Charlottesville, Va.

Today will mark the culmination of a whirlwind winter and spring for the 6-foot-3, 221-pounder. He played in the Blue-Gray all-star game on Christmas Day and the Senior Bowl in late January.

Two weeks later, Rivers showcased his talents for pro scouts at the NFL Combine. Citing lack of experience and an awkward throwing motion, some were less impressed than others.

"If you just saw him in the postseason, you would say he has very poor throwing techniques, which lead to inconsistency and can get him in trouble," wrote Joel Buchsbaum of Pro Football Weekly. "(He) looked like a totally different player on many of his Western Carolina tapes than he did in the postseason."

Mike Detillier said Rivers is a sixth- or seventh-round pick.

"He has a tendency to kind of push the ball out and he needs to work on finding secondary receivers downfield," said Detillier, a scout from New Orleans. "Playing at Virginia and then the one year at Western Carolina, it's a different world in the NFL. ... What grabbed a lot of people's attention was in the Blue-Gray Classic. At the Senior Bowl, he wasn't as effective. He's got some good developmental skills a lot of teams are looking for. But he's going to need a lot of reps."

Rivers appears undaunted by the negative reports. He said he's tried to distance himself from them, "because most of that is just various reporters and whatnot who have their own opinions."

Rivers has yet to be deterred by long odds. After sitting out a redshirt year at Virginia in 1996 and serving as a backup in 1997 and 1998, an injury to starter Dan Ellis put Rivers into duty late in 1999. He had the game of his dreams in a win over Georgia Tech, amassing 228 yards and three touchdowns on 18-of-30 passing in a 45-38 upset of the No. 7 Yellow Jackets.

But Cavaliers coach George Welsh replaced Rivers when Ellis recovered from his concussion, and Rivers finished the season as the backup. Rivers called a meeting with Welsh the following spring to discuss his status, and Welsh said he was grooming two freshman quarterbacks for the future and that chances were bleak for Rivers to start in 2000.

Distraught and despondent, Rivers pondered giving up football altogether. He considered graduating and getting a job.

"I felt like if I'd be putting up any numbers playing football, it would be in a flag football league," he said before the Senior Bowl.

But Rivers reconsidered and transferred to Western Carolina, a Division I-AA program that needed a quarterback to direct its pro-style offense.

A year and several broken records later, Rivers is an NFL prospect. Where he is picked in today's draft matters little, so long as he gets a chance.

"This time last year, I wasn't even sure if I'd be playing football anymore," he said. "It's just an amazing opportunity for me, one I'd never dreamed of. If it's the third round or the seventh round, to me it's still awesome just to get the opportunity."

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or larrywill7@yahoo.com.