--- Follow along all weekend as The State’s Josh Kendall heads to Louisiana to cover Jake Bentley’s time at the Manning Passing Academy. ---
Thibodaux, La., is definitely not Disney World, but it probably will be a pretty happy place for South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley this week.
Bentley will be in Thibodaux starting Thursday along with more than 40 other college quarterbacks to help the famed Manning football dynasty mentor young offensive players, mostly quarterbacks, in the finer points of the passing game.
Started in 1996 by family patriarch Archie Manning when his son Peyton was the quarterback at Tennessee and his son Eli was a sophomore in high school, the Manning Passing Academy has become the foremost high school summer camp in the country under the direction of Peyton and Eli, who each have at least one Super Bowl ring, Archie, the former Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints quarterback, and third son Cooper.
The roster of college quarterbacks who have helped at the camp is as long as it is distinguished and includes current pros Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck, Sam Bradford, Marcus Mariota, Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel, who was famously sent home early in 2013.
More than 40 starting college quarterbacks are expected to serve as counselors at this year’s camp, including Bentley, 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and top 2018 NFL prospect Josh Allen of Wyoming.
That group will be working with more than 1,000 players, mostly quarterbacks but also wide receivers and tight ends, for three days beginning Thursday and continuing through Sunday. In May, South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said his son Jackson will be one of the campers and that he plans to attend the event as well.
The event has become such a big deal that the Disney sports complex in Orlando, Fla., tried to lure it away from the Mannings’s home state, but the family decided to stay in Thibodaux, which is the home of Nicholls State University and not much else. The academy started at Tulane University but moved to Nicholls State after that school lost the New Orleans Saints yearly training camp.
No matter the remote locale, the camp has become a dream destination for college quarterbacks, to both increase their profile and learn from the first family of passing, and the family makes it clear that passing is what the four days is all about.
“Offenses change, but our sole mission is to instill basic, fundamental skills of offensive football,” Jeff Hawkins, the senior associate athletics director at Oregon and the head of operations at the camp told The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate in 2015. “You may run the spread and read option, but nothing changes about throwing the football or catching it or making or taking handoffs, no matter what decade you’re playing in.”
Sounds like Bentley’s kind of place.