Philip Rivers’ new ride allows him to stay home
By KEVIN ACEE • The San Diego Union-Tribune
As the 73 toll road turned into Interstate 5 and San Juan Capistrano and then San Clemente sped by unseen, Philip Rivers and Kellen Clemens watched tape of the Denver Broncos defense and then a little of the San Francisco 49ers defense.
It was the last Monday in August, the return leg of the first round trip for the Riversmobile, an SUV that has been gutted and turned into what the Chargers starting quarterback calls the “best QB room I’ve ever been in.”
The season opener against the Broncos was two weeks away, and there is only so much preseason tape can help. Even with the trip going faster than expected.
Soon Camp Pendleton was on either side of them and then Oceanside.
They clicked over to catch up on the news and were watching ESPN when the SUV slowed to take the North County exit that would deliver the Chargers’ QB1 and QB2 to the Rivers’ driveway just before 5:40 p.m.
“An hour and 18 minutes,” Rivers said later. “Which is nothing.”
Rivers and Clemens shared a laugh as they neared their destination.
“There may be some days,” Rivers said. “where we’re hoping to get in a little traffic because we have more work to do.”
This is how Rivers, a Charger since 2004, didn’t have to relocate even though his team did.
In order to remain a San Diegan, Rivers invested in just about the most L.A. vehicle ever.
Three days a week during the season he will make the commute from his San Diego home to the Chargers’ Costa Mesa facility. It’s a trek many know too well – and dread.
Rivers will do it in a different, more efficient manner.
Essentially, his mode of transportation is a mobile man cave with the seats like those in a first class airplane set side-by-side in the back facing forward, plenty of room for a 6-foot-5 quarterback to fully recline while watching film on the 40-inch television screen separating the front seat and rear cabin. There is satellite TV, WiFi and a small refrigerator Rivers would rather you call a cooler.
For upwards of $200,000 (plus a driver’s salary), anyone can make the freeway melt away.
This is the purview of CEOs and agents and directors and the kind of lawyers who charge $1,000 an hour.
As Tiffany Rivers asked her husband after he reported with glee how well his first trip had gone, “Do you feel like a king?”
The answer, a little bit, was affirmative.
But be sure, this was an investment made only after much investigation and introspection, for the right reasons.
“My two biggest things were my family time and my preparation and what I owe this football team,” Rivers said. “I was not going to sacrifice either of them in any big proportion. I can look at all the pluses and minuses and say, ‘OK. This does it.’ This allows me to get home in the 6 to 7 hour, which is when I got home the last 11 years, and it allows me to watch all or more of the film I watched before.”
Just like his new vehicle, which requires close inspection from the outside to notice any modification that makes it different from a standard SUV, this commitment involved grappling with both reality and perception for Rivers.
“I don’t want it to be, ‘He’s stuck in a car all day, maybe that’s why he struggled,’ “ he said. “Come on.”
Come on, indeed. This is being done out of necessity, because the large and young Rivers family has roots it did not want to tear. And it can afford not to.
Still, we’re talking about a man who likes frills the way he likes interceptions. Rivers lives as about as modestly as one can when his career earnings are bumping up against $200 million.
His primary mode of transportation is a 2008 Ford F250. He wears cowboy boots – real ones, plain brown, nothing made of a swamp creature or rare bird. His dress shirts are Western cut and have shiny buttons.
The Rivers family spent hours searching Orange County, touring schools and homes. They looked at eight of the latter.
“Every time we started driving back home,” Rivers said, “it was like, ‘Gosh!’ We had the feeling of ‘Ohhhh.’ … You look around (when house hunting) and you kind of get excited. You know, ‘That’s a neat neighborhood.’ Then we’d be driving home and we’d get to about Carlsbad and say, ‘Gosh! I feel like we’re going home.’ It just felt that way.”
The ties to San Diego were almost 13 years in the making. Rivers and his wife got to thinking about doctors and dentists and friends and sports teams and schools and all that would go into changing those things for eight children – the youngest of which will turn 2 in October, the oldest having just started high school.
“It was literally making me go, ‘This is crazy,’ “ Rivers said. “I know at some point, (players) have to move. I know it’s life for a lot of people. People have to move all the time.”
It’s not Rivers’ fault he has the means to make a 90-minute commute comfortable and productive. It’s actually admirable that he wanted to do so.
“We’re just so thankful for what we have,” Rivers said. “That’s why we didn’t want it to change.”
With staying in San Diego as the end, the first option considered was carpooling with Clemens, just as they did when the Chargers were in San Diego. This would be 70 extra miles, but maybe if they traded off driving duties it wouldn’t be so bad.
“After about a day or two of seeing what that looks like it was, ‘No way,’ ” Rivers said. “No way I’d be behind the wheel for three hours a day and feel like I’m preparing. I’m wasting three hours. It’s just different. It takes a different toll on you.”
Then he considered maybe a simple conversion of the family’s Sprinter van, the one that Tiffany Rivers uses to tote around eight kids.
“She was like, ‘You’re taking our family’s car?’ ” Rivers recalled his wife saying.
What about a helicopter?
“That was about 15 minutes of me doing an Internet search and five more minutes with me wondering, ‘What in the world am I thinking about this for?’ I’ve never been in one in my life. … Plus, unless it could pick me up in my neighborhood and land on the practice field, it wasn’t going to be that much faster.”
So Rivers did another Internet search. He typed “mobile offices southern california” into Google. He found a company in Oxnard that caters to Hollywood types and CEOs.
Even then, his thought was to go used.
Convinced he needed something specific to his needs, he still leaned heavily toward basic.
“I really just need a TV screen and HDMI, the ability to plug in my computer to the screen,” he told the guy at Becker Automotive Design.
But that’s not how the high-end automobile conversion market works. It’s more of an “If you’re going to do it, do it right” kind of market. And there had to be a thought about resale.
“If this doesn’t go as smooth as I think,” Rivers said. “I need to be able to sell it.”
Someday he will need to unload the vehicle anyway.
“If this was year five for me, we’d move,” Rivers said. “We’d want to stay in the same city, but I’d have a long way to go. You don’t know. … This is the home stretch. I could have five years. I’m only signed up for three.”
So in the meantime, should it keep going like that Monday test run, Rivers has hopes of being back in San Diego in time to help pick up the kids from school on Fridays the team has a home game.
Home, even with a new home.