WASHINGTON — San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had two Latin words for The Catholic University of America class of 2014: “Nunc Coepi,” or “Now I begin.”

Philip Rivers, quarterback for the San Diego Chargers, addresses graduates May 17 in Washington during The Catholic University of America’s 125th annual commencement ceremony. (CNS photo/Ed Pfueller, Catholic University of America)“In our prayer, in our habits, in our relationships, in our profession. It is applicable to everything,” he said at the university’s 125th annual commencement ceremony May 17 in Washington.

“Whether you made a bad grade or didn’t do so well on a project. You must begin again,” he said, speaking with a self-described “Alabama twang” before a crowd of thousands.

“When I have a bad play or a good play, whether I throw a touchdown or an interception, I must begin again. ‘Nunc Coepi.’ It certainly applies to you graduates who now are beginning the next chapter in your lives,” Rivers continued. “You now begin, but this is ongoing. You begin again, and again and again.”

A practicing Catholic, a husband and a father of seven, he said he believes one of the things that has helped him succeed has been a clear sense of focus on his priorities.

“It wasn’t too long ago … that I was sitting in your seat,” said Rivers, 32. “I wasn’t certain what the future held, but I was certain of what mattered most to me. I knew as long as I stayed focused on my priorities, I would be ready for life’s ups and downs. What are your priorities? What is the foundation on which you will build your future? Mine are very simple: faith, family and football, in that order.”

Rivers, who grew up in Decatur, Ala., said his passion for football is closely tied with his relationship to his father, who coached a high school team.

“I was the water boy, ball boy and longed for the time when I would get to be his quarterback,” Rivers said. “Even now, I call him almost daily to analyze the previous game, discuss the next opponent, or just simply talk ball. He and I can and do talk about everything, but there’s something special about talking football with my dad.”

Rivers said he loves football because of the camaraderie with his teammates and the constant quest for improvement.

“Football means preparation, hard work and achievement,” he said. “Football means pursuing excellence and striving to get better. It’s the guts to overcome failures, the resolve to never give up and the thrill of winning.”

Rivers encouraged the graduates to pursue the things they love.

“What are you passionate about? What fires you up?” he asked. “Life is too short to just go through the motions. Discover your passion, if you haven’t already, and do it to the best of your ability.”

When it comes to his family, Rivers said there is nothing he loves more than coming back from the road and seeing his wife, Tiffany, and their children. One thing he has learned over the years is to protect his family’s best interests with prayer, planning and hard work.

“As a quarterback, I prepare and plan very meticulously to achieve my football goals. How much more should Tiffany and I prepare and plan to achieve our family goals?” he said. “Class of 2014, what is valuable to you? Avoid regret that comes with chance. Identify what is valuable to you, then prepare and plan to protect it.”

Rivers said his faith was the most important thing in his life. Though he grew up Catholic, he said he took ownership of his faith while he was in college. Now, he and his wife center their lives on God.

“We strive to raise our children to know, love and serve God,” he said. “Staying in the state of grace and receiving the sacraments allows us, all of us, to better live out our faith. No matter where one is on his or her faith journey, it is fitting to say, ‘Nunc Coepi.’”

During the ceremony, Catholic University awarded honorary degrees to Rivers as well as Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, and Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio.