NSU SID/Doug Ireland

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State’s search to replace record-breaking 2014 senior quarterback Zach Adkins expanded Friday when Demons’ football coach Jay Thomas and 2015 senior Stephen Rivers confirmed the former LSU and Vanderbilt competitor is transferring to NSU.

Rivers will join five returning quarterback contenders trying to win the Demons’ starting job for the Sept. 3 season opener in Turpin Stadium against Southeastern Louisiana. Last year at Vanderbilt, Rivers played in four games, starting against Ole Miss, and played in four games at LSU in 2012 as the backup to NFL quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

The 6-foot-7, 235-pounder is a native of Athens, Ala., and was rated a consensus three-star, pro-style quarterback prospect by all major recruiting services at the end of his Athens High School career. He threw for 35 touchdowns and over 3,200 yards in his final two seasons, then was the Most Valuable Player of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic.

At Vanderbilt, he was in a four-quarterback mix and came off the bench to throw for 186 yards on 12 of 25 aim against Temple. Overall, he had 334 yards passing on 25 of 63 aim for the Commodores.

“We’re excited to add a quarterback with the maturity and ability that Stephen brings to Demon football. We are going to have a very lively competition for playing time at that position, to say the least,” said Thomas, entering his third season as NSU’s head coach. “There’s a few different skill sets in the mix that we can take advantage of with our multiple offense.”

Rivers, who has his undergraduate degree in business from LSU, will be pursuing a sport administration master’s degree this fall. He began graduate school at Vanderbilt.

“In searching for a school to finish my academic and football career, I put a bug in some teams’ ears that I thought might have interest in a transfer veteran quarterback. Northwestern State responded to my interest with interest of their own,” he said. “I was looking for a school with a sport administration master's program, and NSU has that. On my visit to Northwestern State, I really enjoyed seeing the historic city, and the football venue in Natchitoches.

"The coaching staff and players at Northwestern State seem to have something special brewing. I watched film with the coaches and I feel that I am a good fit for the system they run,” said Rivers. “I am excited to get started this summer and meet my new teammates. I look forward to applying all I have learned in my four years in the SEC and doing whatever I can to help Northwestern State win a conference championship."

Rivers will compete with junior Daniel Hazlewood, sophomores J.D. Almond, Joel Blumenthal, T.J. Fleeton, and Nick Fabrizio when preseason camp opens Aug. 4.

“We have some very talented younger quarterbacks and they all did things to get us excited in the spring. I know the idea of us bringing in a senior transfer isn’t good news for each of those guys, who want to get on the field,” said Thomas, “but being the people they are and the competitors they are, I know they’ll embrace the challenge and get even better because of it. We go into August camp wide open on the starting job and with anything on the table.”

Adkins broke 14 game, season or career records in two seasons under Thomas, and helped the Demons set team season marks including total offense and passing yards in 2014. All-America receiver and returner Ed Eagan, who set six individual school marks last year, is on the verge of breaking the school career receptions record this fall. He heads an explosive corps of receivers, with the top four producers from last season back for 2015, combining for 17 touchdowns. Running backs De’Mard Llorens and Daniel Taylor averaged nearly five yards per carry in 2014. Four returning starters, including NFL Draft prospect Pace Murphy, are among eight lettermen back on the offensive line.

“We have some exciting, proven veterans at receiver and running back. We have what we believe is a pretty good offensive line with nice depth and experience,” said Thomas. “We always recruit to get better at every position, and in this case, we are confident with the guys we had on hand at quarterback, and are pleased to add Stephen to strengthen our hand. When it’s all said and done going into the season, the best guys will earn their way out there to lead what we think has the potential to be a very explosive offense.”

While Rivers has limited game experience in the SEC, the rigors of daily competition in practice, offseason drills and summer workouts has sharpened his skill set, said Thomas.

“Stephen’s competed against some of the best in college football during his time at LSU and Vandy. A lot of guys he worked against at LSU in practice daily are now making a nice living in the NFL,” said Thomas. “The coaches we know recommended him strongly not only as a competitor and a quarterback, but as a quality young man. He has the potential to have a very good senior season with the Demons.”

Rivers’ older brother, Phillip, is the longtime quarterback of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. His father Steve was a successful prep football coach in north Alabama.