WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Chip Rives went to college to carry a football, but his legacy at Wake Forest will be for carrying something else.
Rives initiated a program a year ago to deliver Christmas gifts to underprivileged children in the Winston-Salem area. And he admits it gives him more joy than any of the 13 touchdowns he scored for the Deacons.
'Just seeing the kids' faces when you give them a toy is the satisfying part,' said Rives, who completed his football eligibility this season and is in his first year of graduate school. 'In fact, seeing the parents' faces might even be more fun than the kids themselves.'
Rives, a Springfield, Va., native who played fullback for the Deacons, got the idea from a magazine article.
'There was a woman in San Antonio that started the same kind of program,' Rives said. 'I was impressed by that and thought we could do something similar here.'
Rives enlisted several fraternity brothers and other friends. Prior to Christmas 1986, they mailed letters to Wake Forest supporters asking for contributions to the 'Santa's Helper' program.
'I was a little wary of how the project would be accepted,' Rives said. 'But the response was overwhelming.'
Rives and his companions used the money to purchase toys and games. More than 50 friends helped wrap packages.
They obtained a list of needy families in the area from the Social Services department, then took to the streets, three to a car.
'One driver, one navigator and one Santa,' Rives said. 'A couple of times when all the students had left town, I did all three. But I'd rather drive or read the map, then stand back and watch it all happen. The excitement and good feeling I got from the project really didn't hit home until we delivered the presents.'
In all, kids from 45 families were on the receiving end. This year, the total is more than 100 families, but donations -- and thus presents - may grow because of publicity. Sports Illustrated magazine has named Rives one of its eight Sportsmen of the Year.
Rives accepts the end of his football career, but he's confident 'Santa's Helper' will continue long after he leaves Wake Forest. And that, along with the smiles on the kids' faces, makes it all worthwhile.
'Football's something that's played a pretty important part of my life,' he said. 'But I feel a heck of a lot better being known for something like this than for football. My trophy case won't be as big as some people's, but this is bigger than anything I ever could have accomplished in football.'