Power Shift, a 216-page novel recently completed by Denver
Bronco running back Reggie Rivers is, in the words of its
author, "the story of a pro football player and a sportswriter
who hate each other."
Obviously a work of fiction.
As yet unpublished, Power Shift revolves around San Antonio
Saddlebuster wide receiver Martin McNeil and the baseless
vendetta held against him by David Costanza, a local sports
columnist. Insight into both characters, says Rivers, "came
straight from the last five years of my life."
Rivers, 27, is a fifth-year backup fullback and special teams
star who moonlights as a Sunday columnist for Denver's Rocky
Mountain News. His column is syndicated to 14 papers in seven
states (Rivers charges $10 per column), and he is also the
co-author of The Vance: The Beginning & the End, teammate Vance
Johnson's 1994 account of his licentious past.
"Lately," says Rivers, who has not participated in a play from
scrimmage this season, "more stories have been written by me
than about me."
Scrub. Scribe. At this chapter in his career, the former
Southwest Texas State fullback is much more surprised to find
himself in shoulder pads than in journalism. "I'd planned to be
a journalist ever since I saw All the President's Men when I was
a little boy," says Rivers. "Football? Until my senior year in
college [when he rushed for 1,145 yards], I was just an average
player on a very poor team."
A journalism major, Rivers interned in high school and college
at three newspapers--the San Antonio Light, the Austin
American-Statesman and New York Newsday--for which he covered the
police department and the environment but never sports. When he
arrived at the Bronco camp as an undrafted free agent in July
1991, the Rocky Mountain News approached him about writing a
diary. The job, Rivers understood, didn't guarantee long-term
security. "My tag line read something like, 'Reggie Rivers's
diary will appear throughout training camp or until he gets
cut,'" he recalls.
The latter never happened. Displaying a "willingness to do
whatever it takes," according to Rivers, he made the club as a
special-teams whiz and today plays on all of the Broncos'
special teams. In 1993 his blocked punts against Cleveland and
Kansas City led to a safety and the game-winning touchdown, and
he was named the Broncos' special teams player of the year.
Rivers spends many of his lunch hours--when the media has locker
room access--with his tape recorder in a teammate's face,
gathering material for his local radio show. "I have to follow
the same access rules as the other media," he says. "I'm
generally considered the team nerd."
Unlike Costanza and many columnists he has met, Rivers
accentuates the positive. "I'll only criticize myself or a
special teams unit I'm on," he says. Story suggestion, Reggie:
Discuss why the Broncos have not returned a kickoff for a
touchdown since 1972.
"That's a good idea," Rivers says. "Maybe I'll do that soon."
Better hurry. Last month teammate Terrell Davis, a rookie
tailback, embarked on his own Sunday column with the rival
COLOR PHOTO: TIM DEFRISCOThe special teams star is more often the author than the subject of stories on the Broncos. [Reggie Rivers holding up newspaper]