THIBODAUX, La. -- The campers who attend the Manning Passing Academy each summer at Nicholls State University certainly get a kick out of learning from the first family of quarterback play -- Archie Manning and sons Peyton, Eli and Cooper -- and a who’s who of college quarterbacks.
But those counselors from the college ranks might get even more out of the experience than the kids. The opportunity to interact with and learn from such successful NFL quarterbacks -- and fellow college players such as Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Baylor’s Bryce Petty -- lured 42 college quarterbacks from across the country to Thibodaux, a small town in south Louisiana.
“It might be even better to be a counselor,” said Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley, who attended the camp prior to his junior and senior seasons of high school. “I’ve enjoyed it day in and day out. Just being around these guys and talking to them … it’s a very select, elite group. We speak a different language sometimes.”
Several of the college players who met with the media after Friday morning’s practice cited the appeal in learning from the Mannings and other NFL personnel on hand as reasons to attend. And not just learning new throwing drills, but also how to carry oneself like a professional.
“I’m an observer, so I just observe the way [Peyton] does things,” Winston said. “He’s so detail-oriented and how he carries himself – I’m really trying to see how he carries himself because I want to be the guy 10, 15 years from now that’s viewed like a Peyton Manning or an Eli or an Archie.”
Entering his first season as Georgia’s starting quarterback, Hutson Mason -- one of seven SEC quarterbacks in attendance -- said he immediately started learning new things from the pro and college players upon arrival at the camp on Thursday.
For one thing, he said Peyton and Eli emphasized that a quarterback’s pregame routine should include more than just warming up with a few deep balls and skeleton-style throws with no defender. They told the college players to focus on quarterback-specific drills where they practice moving inside the pocket and keeping their eyes focused downfield.
“I think that’s what I was looking forward to is not only asking these guys how they do things at their school and maybe taking a little bit from them, but also the Mannings have drills that I’ve never really done. Yesterday I went and wrote them down so I wouldn’t forget them,” Mason said. “We kind of get repetitive with the drills we do, so it’s good to go into like a new library, use new resources, so to speak. You can’t get anything better than these guys.”
A welcome reprieve: The campers and counselors aren’t the only ones who continue to learn lessons about how to handle their high-profile position.
Archie was impressed with the way Peyton shook off the humiliation of his Denver Broncos’ 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl and found a way to move on with life. The week after the big game, the five-time NFL MVP decided to become a late entrant into the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
“You’d better not get over it immediately, but he handled it,” Archie said. “I think Peyton gets wiser every year. He turned around the week [after] that game and went and played in the AT&T golf tournament -- smartest thing he ever did. He played well and the PGA so much appreciated him coming, and it was good for him, too. You can’t sit around and mope when you lose a football game, so Peyton, he handled it.”
Alma mater connections: Among the several dozen college quarterbacks in attendance are seven from the SEC: Mason, Worley, Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, Florida’s Jeff Driskel, Missouri’s Maty Mauk and South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson.
It’s no coincidence that two of those players, Worley and Wallace, are the presumptive starters at the alma maters of Peyton (Tennessee) and Archie and Eli (Ole Miss).
Both college players say they’ve developed bonds with the Mannings since arriving at their respective schools.
“Usually when I see Eli, it’s just, ‘How are you doing?’ I’ve never really gotten pointers or anything like that,” Wallace said. “I’ve gotten texts from Archie before games before, but it’s never been pointers or anything like that. It’s usually just friendly talk.”
Worley said in addition to his time working with the family at the camp, Peyton has worked a bit with the Voluntseer quarterbacks in Knoxville.
“We’ve got a very good relationship,” Worley said. “He came back a couple weeks and we threw for a couple days and had a meeting with him.”