Philip Rivers graduated a semester early from high school. He was North Carolina State's starting quarterback pretty much from the moment he set foot on campus. He was engaged before his freshman year of college, married at 19 and became a father at 20.

Even though he is in his third season as the Wolfpack's starting quarterback, he still isn't old enough to purchase beer.

"He's awfully mature, a lot more mature than I ever was at that age," said Rivers's father and former high school coach, Steve. "He and his wife, they've got a plan and they can handle it. People take on different responsibilities at different times. This is what they wanted."

To an outsider, the demands on Rivers might seem overwhelming. He has a wife, a 4-month-old daughter and plays football for the nation's 14th-ranked team, starting at the game's most demanding position. And, oh yeah, he is still a student, taking a full course load and working toward a degree in business.

To Rivers, though, the long list of demands seems normal as the Wolfpack prepares for Saturday's game at Maryland.

"I don't like to sit still," he said. He never has.

Steve Rivers can remember Philip coming to watch Steve run high school football practice from the time Philip started elementary school. Perhaps that is how Philip acquired his unorthodox, sidearm throwing motion -- while most youngsters play with a smaller youth-sized ball, Philip was throwing the high school ball. Even before that, though, Steve remembers taking Philip to high school basketball games where, when the band played during timeouts or halftime, Philip would stand up and act like a conductor.

"He always wanted to be doing something," Steve Rivers said. "He didn't like to be sitting around and watching."

He also liked to be the leader. On weekends, Philip was always the one organizing football games with his friends, games that were quite serious, with yard lines chalked off and marked and pylons surrounding the end zone in the Rivers's backyard.

Rivers played on the Athens (Ala.) High School freshman team during his first year of high school, then started on the varsity as a sophomore -- at linebacker. He became the team's top quarterback the following season and, combined with a nice growth spurt, blossomed into a top college prospect.

Rivers was attracted to N.C. State because the Wolfpack had a senior quarterback and needed an immediate replacement. And his decision became easy when Chuck Amato was hired as N.C. State's coach, then showed up in Athens the following day to recruit Rivers.

Rivers graduated from Athens High a semester early so that he could enroll at N.C. State and participate in spring practice. And when it soon became clear that their son would be the starter, Steve and Joan packed up and moved to Raleigh with their two younger children so they could attend most of Philip's games.

As a freshman, Rivers broke seven school records and was named the Wolfpack's most valuable player and the ACC freshman of the year. Rivers followed that by improving his completion percentage to a school single-season record of .652, the highest in the ACC last season. This season, he leads the conference and is third nationally in pass efficiency, helping the Wolfpack (9-1, 4-1) to the best start in school history.

"The first thing is he has great vision," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I watch for quarterbacks and how well they can see things. This guy sees things almost instantly. He has this release and I don't know how . . . but that ball can come out by his hip. Sometimes it looks like he pushes it. But that darn ball gets where he needs it to be. He's extremely accurate."

Despite his on-field success, Rivers said he tries to leave football behind when he heads home, which is around 8 each night. While some of his teammates might be preparing for a big night out, Rivers is putting Halle Elizabeth to bed, then trying to get in a little time with his wife, Tiffany, whom he started dating in seventh grade.

Some teammates, including standout freshman running back T.A. McLendon, are surprised when they learn about Rivers's personal life. Others tease him for not following the lifestyle of a typical college student.

"The guys kid me and tell me I'm an old man," said Rivers, adding that because he has a 9-year-old brother and a 4-year-old sister, he is used to being around children. "But I never really was a stay-up-late or sleep-late kind of guy."

Philip Rivers leads ACC in passing efficiency and is third nationally, leading the 9-1 Wolfpack to its best-ever start as it visits Maryland on Saturday.