Manning Passing Academy celebrates silver anniversary

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Manning Passing Academy
(Photo: Parker Waters)

NFF salutes Archie Manning and his family on a special tradition that has impacted more than 26,000 high school players since its inception.

IRVING, Texas – The Manning Passing Academy will reach a major milestone this year as the 25th edition takes place July 15-18 on the campus of Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. The academy, which boasts a list of contributors that would require its own Hollywood Walk of Fame, has one simple goal: to make the game more enjoyable for high school players.

“I think we have accomplished our mission, which was to enhance the high school experience for young quarterbacks and receivers,” said Archie Manning, the chairman of the National Football Foundation and the executive director of the camp. “It’s not to make them into college players and certainly not pro players but to help them with their skills, their leadership qualities, their knowledge of nutrition and hydration, character, work habits, the cerebral part of football. The kids who come to our camp want to play high school football, and we want their experience to be a good one.”

The camp started in 1996 at Tulane University in New Orleans with 185 participants and has grown to 1,200 participants a year today. More than half the current NFL quarterbacks either attended the camp as counselors or campers. Prominent participants have included Josh Allen (Wyoming), NFF National Scholar-Athlete Matt Barkley (Southern California), NFF Hampshire Honor Society member Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), NFF Hampshire Honor Society member Joe Burrow, NFF National Scholar-Athlete Kirk Cousins (Michigan State), Jake Delhomme (Louisiana), Andy Dalton (TCU), Nick Foles (Arizona), Jared Goff (California), Campbell Trophy® winner Justin Herbert (Oregon), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), NFF Hampshire Honor Society member Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), NFF Hampshire Honor Society member Andrew Luck (Stanford), NFF Hampshire Honor Society member Marcus Mariota (Oregon), NFF National Scholar-Athlete Colt McCoy (Texas), NFF National Scholar-Athlete Greg McElroy (Alabama), NFF National Scholar-Athlete Aaron Murray (Georgia), NFF National Scholar-Athlete Christian Ponder (Florida State), Dak Prescott (Mississippi State), Philip Rivers (NC State), Geno Smith (West Virginia), Matthew Stafford (Georgia), NFF National Scholar-Athlete Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M) and NFF Hampshire Honor Society member Russell Wilson (NC State/Wisconsin).

“Archie Manning and his sons Cooper, Peyton and Eli have really set the standard for camps,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “Throughout the past 25 years, they have created a meaningful experience for thousands of high school players, ensuring that they are exposed to all the key ingredients for success. We want to pay tribute to the Mannings and everybody involved with the camp for the impact that they have had, which we are sure will continue well into the future.”

The academy will attract campers from 47 states this year with the number capped at 1,200. Manning estimates that the camp could enroll more than 2,000 campers, but they have limited the attendees despite the excess demand. Based on rough estimates more than 26,000 have attended the camp over the years. Manning said two-thirds of the campers drive with their parents and grandparents from all over the country to attend the camp, staying in hotels, eating at restaurants and generating an annual economic impact of more than $2 million for the local community during the four-day event.

When the camp started in 1996, Peyton, the 1997 NFF William V. Campbell Trophy® winner, was a junior at Tennessee. Eli, a 2003 NFF National Scholar-Athlete from Ole Miss, was a sophomore at Isidore Newman High School, and Manning’s oldest son Cooper had just graduated from Ole Miss. Buddy Teevens, the current head coach at Dartmouth, was head coach at Tulane, and Jeff Hawkins, the current director of football operations at Oregon, was a recruiting coordinator for Teevens. Manning, his sons, Teevens and Hawkins have been the driving force behind the camp’s success since its inception.

“Those five people, the three boys along with Teevens and Hawkins, have never missed a minute of the camp,” said Manning. “We never thought that we would be doing this 25 years later. It was just supposed to be a fun thing with the boys. I never thought it would be anything more than a regional type thing… It was basically Peyton’s idea. He was a junior at Tennessee, and at that time high school quarterbacks were not throwing much, and he said what can do to help them.”

The staff includes 120 coaches, creating a 10:1 ratio of campers to coaches. Approximately 80 of the coaches, all who have been participating since the earliest days of the camp, come from the high school and the small college ranks, and no coaches come from the major college ranks.

“We’re really proud of our coaches,” said Manning. “It’s really gratifying that they come back, and it’s great to have them… It is great fellowship, and it is kind of like a family. They like the camaraderie. They like the experience. They like the kids. For me personally, I am probably a little selfish, but it guarantees me four nights with my boys, and I don’t get four nights any other time of the year.”

The camp supplements the high school and small college coaches with 38-40 college counselors, who are all starters with major college teams, and this year the counselors will again include many of the top starting quarterbacks from FBS and FCS colleges around the nation who will lead their teams this season.

“We don’t track our campers to see how many play college or professional football because that’s not part of our mission,” said Manning. “And we don’t want to get anywhere near recruiting. Any coaches that are there, we don’t allow them to recruit. We feel that every youngster that chooses to play high school football should have a great experience. The first things we preach are enthusiasm and fun.”

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