Manning Passing Academy: Where stars are found

Philadelphia InquirerJuly 6, 2014 

Shortly after Andrew Luck returned from the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana in the summer of 2010, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh had a few questions for his highly coveted quarterback.

Harbaugh believed that Luck, considered the highest-rated quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning was drafted No. 1 in 1998, was capable of identifying traits that made quarterbacks successful.

Cris Carter, the Hall of Fame receiver who has worked at the Manning camp as a counselor, recalled the conversation between Harbaugh and Luck.

"Were there any quarterbacks there, maybe someone flying under the radar that I should know about?" Harbaugh asked. "Did you see anyone there who had a little something extra?"

Luck, also there as a counselor, processed the question and replied with the name of another counselor he had befriended.

"Yeah, the kid from Nevada, Kaepernick is his name," Luck said.

Harbaugh, who left Stanford to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers after that season, picked Colin Kaepernick a few months later with the 36th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Last month, the 49ers bestowed on Kaepernick a contract extension that could be worth as much as $126 million.

"The rest, as they say, is history," Carter said.

While not a blue-chip high school camp -- some participants this year will come from Canada, France, and Guam, and all received a slot on a first-come, first-served basis -- the Manning Passing Academy has carved out a niche as a summer meeting place for many involved in the administration, coaching, and playing of high school, college, and professional football.

In other words, if you are involved in the game, Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. -- which has a population of more than 14,000 -- is a good place to be in mid-July.

Temple sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker, who started the last seven games of the 2013 season for the Owls, will be among the 40 or so college quarterbacks working as a counselor this summer at the camp, which begins Thursday and wraps up on Sunday.

Walker will work alongside notable quarterbacks such as Florida State's Jameis Winston, Oregon's Marcus Mariota, UCLA's Brett Hundley, and Baylor's Bryce Petty, among others. They will work shoulder-to-shoulder alongside brothers Peyton and Eli Manning as counselors to approximately 1,200 high school campers for four days.

"It's a great opportunity for me," Walker said. "I want to go there and be like a sponge. I want to learn as much as I can from the Manning family and transition it back here."

Archie Manning, the No. 2 overall pick by the New Orleans Saints in 1972, said that he and his sons feel "indebted" to the counselors who work the camp. As part of that indebtedness, they make sure the collegians have complete access to the Mannings.

"Seventy-five percent of the camp is coaching the campers," Archie Manning said. "But the other 25 percent is committed to meetings, private meetings, cookouts, and spending time with the guys. We look at it as they have made the sacrifice to be with us, not the other way around. You want them to take back with them more than they came with."

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