A Family Affair: MJ Rivers ready for Illini

Illini recruit's NFL father wanted to play for Lovie, now son gets that chance

FRISCO, TX. (WCIA) -- Marcellus Rivers, Sr. spent eight seasons in the NFL including 2007 as a New England Patriot when the team went undefeated. Despite all his success, there's one dream his son MJ can achieve that he never did.

"Lovie (Smith) was one of those guys I wanted to play for," Rivers said.

Marcellus never had a chance to play for Lovie Smith during his 11-year career as an NFL head coach. So when the now Illinois head coach started recruiting his son, MJ, Marcellus had an extra level of excitement. 

"That was like his dream coach to play for," MJ Rivers said. "For me to go and play for him, is very exciting for him." 

"It was pretty awesome when the offer came," Marcellus said. "I was excited. I was like, 'Yo, this is Lovie."

Fortunately for MJ, the feeling is mutual.

"You have to have a guy that you feel comfortable with running your team at the quarterback position," Smith said. "MJ has a lot of those qualities."

As a senior for Lone Star High School in Frisco, Texas, MJ led the Rangers to a 12-2 record, finishing the season with more than 2,600 passing yards, nearly 1,000 rushing, and a combined 49 touchdowns. 

"A quarterback has to be able to throw the football and MJ Rivers can throw the football," added Smith. "Simple as that. He's got a good height, size."

"I've always thought of myself, 'OK, anywhere I go, anything I do, I can go in and I can start if I just put my mind to it and grind, and work hard,'" MJ said.

The quarterback position remains one of the biggest areas of need for the Illini and Smith and his coaching staff are confident that MJ can compete for the starting job. Whether or not he does, MJ knows his dad will be there to cheer him on.

"I'll be at every game," Marcellus said. "Everywhere he goes, I'll go."

"I know that my family is going to be there with me and they're going to travel to every game," said MJ. "So I know I'll always be able to see them."

Rivers hasn't made his official visit to Champaign yet but he says he hopes to do that in early January. MJ is the only signed quarterback so far in the 2018 class. Peoria High quarterback Coran Taylor is committed to Illinois but did not sign his letter of intent during the early period.


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