The veteran quarterback -- who has played through injuries, put up Hall of Fame numbers and become a popular figure to pull for over the autumns even outside of Southern California -- delivered an emotional speech on Thursday night to his San Diego faithful to say thanks and offer his admiration.
"As I try out there every Sunday, with that bolt on my helmet and 17 on my back, play like crazy with that passion and fight that that's the only way I know how," Rivers said in his speech per The Associated Press, "I hope that there are some of you still here in San Diego that can still say, 'That's our quarterback.'"
Rivers reportedly fought back tears as he accepted an award at the San Diego Sports Association's Salute to the Champions dinner at the San Diego Marriott La Jolla. Rivers received recognition along with Boston Marathon women's winner Desiree Linden, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg and Olympic gold-medalist snowboarder Shaun White.
"I certainly understand the mixed feelings and emotions many in San Diego have about our move," Rivers said. "It's more than understandable. Those that still cheer and pull for us each week, we certainly appreciate it. I again, personally, want to express my gratitude for all the love and support that I've always felt in and around town, whenever I'm out and about."
In his days in San Diego, Rivers put up big numbers on the field and off of it, as his family has been built up over the years.
"This town was so welcoming to me and my family when we arrived in 2004, my wife and I and one daughter," he said. "And in a couple of weeks our ninth child will be here. We truly have enjoyed being a part of this community."
The 37-year-old Rivers guided the Chargers to a 12-4 regular season with a Wild Card win over the Ravens as the franchise returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. His 4,308 yards and 32 touchdowns earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl (he did not play). It was Rivers' sixth straight season with greater than 4,000 passing yards and his 10th overall along with his sixth year with 30 or more TD throws.
While the Patriots and Rams prepare for the Super Bowl, many other NFL players arrived in Atlanta for the festivities. Rivers was staying classy in San Diego, though.
"You don't know how many more times you're going to get, publicly, to get to say thanks, really," Rivers said. "You know, small-town boy from Alabama ends up in California, in San Diego, playing 13 years and still living here now 15. You never know what it's going to be like. I can be nothing but thankful for how it was for our family and how much I loved playing down here. All those things. I just thought it was important not to just go, 'Yeah, OK, I don't think I can get over there,' and just to be able to express that at least one more time."