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If Archie Manning wanted to cash in on his sons’ Super Bowl prowess, one would think he would have started a summer passing camp after his middle boy Peyton won Super Bowl XLI with Indianapolis in the 2006 season and his youngest Eli won Super Bowl XLII a year later with the New York Giants.
But he had already started one a decade earlier in 1996 at Tulane when Peyton was just coming off his sophomore season at Tennessee, and Eli was going into his sophomore year at Newman High in uptown New Orleans.
Archie Manning has long been a shrewd businessman, going back to his playing days as the New Orleans Saints quarterback from 1971-82 when he represented Royal Oldsmobile in the city. In a city that is the SEC of restaurants, Manning’s Sports Bar & Grill on Fulton Street is holding its own.
But the camp, which heads into its second quarter century beginning Thursday and running through Sunday in Thibodaux south of New Orleans, was not and has not always been about the money.
It’s about the passing and the quarterbacks, who will once again be an eye popping who’s-who list this weekend at Nicholls State University with such names as 2021 Heisman winner Bryce Young of Alabama, 2021 national champion Stetson Bennett of Georgia, 2021 SEC passing efficiency leader Hendon Hooker of Tennessee and the SEC’s passing yards per game leader last season in Mississippi State’s Will Rogers.
Among the Manning Passing Academy alumni as campers or counselors to reach the NFL in addition to Peyton and Eli are Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow, Jake Delhomme, Nick Foles, Colin Kaepernick and Andrew Luck.
With Peyton making it to another Super Bowl in the 2009 season with Indy before losing to the Saints, and Eli winning another one with the Giants in the 2011 season, which was four years prior to Peyton winning Super Bowl 50 with Denver, there have been various offers to the Mannings to take over the camp. One was by Disney, which wanted to move the camp to Florida.
“We’ve had people through the years who seem to have suggestions about how we ought to change,” Archie told the New York Post in 2014. “We’ve always had a simple saying that came from Peyton. ‘It’s an effin’ football camp.’ That’s kind of our theme.”
And it was Peyton’s idea. While in high school, he had gone to a quarterback camp held by Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and his coaching sons Tommy, Terry and Jeff in Birmingham, Alabama. Peyton thought his dad could put on one as good or better, and Archie liked the idea.
And there was another reason. At the time in the mid-1990s, running games still ruled football for the most part
“I just didn’t think there was enough emphasis on passing. That’s kind of how this all got started,” Peyton said last year.
“Nobody was throwing very much back then,” Archie said a year ago. “We had no idea it would grow to this.”
Manning is not a New Orleans native as he was born in Drew, Mississippi, in 1949, but he may as well be. He has lived uptown off St. Charles Avenue since shortly after the Saints made him the No. 2 pick of the 1971 NFL Draft after a legendary, All-American career at Ole Miss. This may be one reason why he has kept the camp close to home as it moved to nearby Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond after Tulane before finding its home in Thibodaux – 59 miles from New Orleans.
If anyone could teach a kid how to throw on the run it was and is Archie, who helped invent the sprint option pass and ran like a tailback at Ole Miss before running for his life during most of the time as a Saint.
“I really got to know what the roof of the dome looked like,” Manning once said.
Then he started coaching his sons – never officially. He let others do that. But amazingly both Peyton and Eli became textbook, drop-back quarterbacks with Petyon going to Tennessee in 1994 and Eli to Ole Miss in 1999.
The oldest of Archie’s sons, Cooper was Peyton’s favorite target at Newman in 1991 when Cooper was a senior and Peyton was a sophomore. Cooper signed with Ole Miss in 1992 and Peyton likely would have followed him there, but Cooper was diagnosed in the summer of ’92 with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine and pinching of the nerves. And he never played football again. He has always been a camp director with his brothers and dad, though.
“I’m proud to say this. The four of us – we’ve never missed one minute of camp,” Archie said during the 2021 camp. “Not one minute have we been gone.”
Cooper’s oldest son is Arch Manning, who will be a senior at Newman High this season and is the No. 1 pro style quarterback in the nation and No. 1 overall prospect in the country. Also expected at the camp, Arch is likely headed to Georgia, but Texas and Alabama are in the mix.
The camp has All-Stars, but it is not all about that. The 45 starting or likely starting college quarterbacks from around the nation are called camp counselors and are primarily there to help campers, though they also get lessons from Archie, Peyton, Eli and other guests. More than 1,300 campers are expected, ranging from those entering eighth grade this fall to seniors-to-be in high school. In that first year in 1996, there were 180 campers.
The college quarterbacks show off their skills at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Nicholls’ John L. Guidry Stadium in an event that is open to the public with tickets costing $15.
Archie Manning promises it will not be about recruiting, his grandson, Name, Image & Likeness or the NCAA Transfer Portal. He asks schools to send one quarterback, not two, particularly when there is quarterback competition at that school, so the media won’t focus on that.
This is why the only LSU quarterback on hand will be Myles Brennan, who could start this season, but Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels and redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier could both be in the mix before and during the season.
Again, it’s about “effin'” throwing the football.
The Mannings take it seriously. Peyton once had to basically tell some quarterback counselors to shut up during a press conference once. In 2013 before his last college season and fresh off winning the Heisman Trophy, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was banned from returning to the camp after going missing during the weekend.
“If you screw up, out the gate you go,” said one of the camp directors at the time.
“Our mission is to enhance the high school football experience,” Manning said. “I hope we’ve done that. I hope they have gotten better at football.”
Passing the football, that is.
Here is the complete list of college quarterbacks set to be at the Manning Passing Academy in alphabetical order:
Holton Ahlers – East Carolina, Luke Altmyer – Ole Miss, Brennan Armstrong – Virginia, Tyson Bagent – Shepherd University, Connor Bazelak – Indiana, Stetson Bennett – Georgia, Myles Brennan – LSU, Sean Clifford – Penn State, Jayden de Laura – Arizona, Jarret Doege – Western Kentucky, DeQuan Finn – Toledo, Kohen Granier – Nicholls State, Sam Hartman – Wake Forest, Layne Hatcher – Texas State, Hunter Helms – Clemson, Gunnar Holmberg – Florida International, Hendon Hooker – Tennessee
Nick Howard – Dartmouth, KJ Jefferson – Arkansas, Max Johnson – Texas A&M, Phil Jurkovec – Boston College, Kyle King – Mary Hardin Baylor, Devin Leary – North Carolina State, Will Levis – Kentucky, Aidan O’Connell – Purdue, Spencer Petras – Iowa, John Rhys Plumlee – UCF, Taylor Powell – Eastern Michigan, Michael Pratt – Tulane, Drew Pyne – Notre Dame, Spencer Rattler – Sourth Carolina
Chris Reynolds – Charlotte, Anthony Richardson – Florida, Cameron Rising – Utah, Will Rogers – Mississippi State, Tyler Shough – Texas Tech, Justin Sliwoski – St. Francis, Kedon Slovis – Pittsburgh, CJ Stroud – Ohio State, Ty Thompson – Oregon, Liam Thompson – Wabash, Clayton Tune – Houston, Tyler Van Dyke – Miami, Mike Wright – Vanderbilt, and Bryce Young- Alabama.