Thirty-three college quarterbacks put on a show tonight for more than 1,200 campers and their families during the main event of the 21st annual Manning Passing Academy.
Southern Mississippi’s Nick Mullens and Michigan’s John O’Korn were crowned co-champions of the Papa John’s Air-it-Out and IBERIABANK Quarterback Challenge after neither could separate themselves after five rounds of competition at Nicholls State University’s stadium.
Camp officials took a moment at the beginning of the night to honor Peyton Manning, who retired this off season after a decorated 18-year NFL career that was capped by a Super Bowl win with the Denver Broncos in February.
Peyton, who announced he would no longer be throwing at the camp due to neck injuries sustained at the end of his career, managed the night while younger brother, Eli, worked out with the quarterbacks and older brother, Cooper, emceed, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Quarterbacks opened the night by putting on an exhibition throwing routes to receivers from high school and Nicholls. Receivers ran slants, 12-yard curls, 18-yard outs and ins, go routes and deep posts. Crowds responded with ‘oohs,’ ‘ahs’ and applause every time a quarterback and a receiver connected on a long throw.
During the passing challenge, the quarterbacks had to hit three golf carts, carrying Papa John’s posters on either side, traveling across the field at 15 yards, 25 yards and up the sidelines. This was a change from previous years, when the first two carts traveled 10 and 20 yards. Quarterbacks needed to hit all three carts to advance.
Only Mullens, O’Korn and Easton Melancon from Louisiana College advanced from the first round.
In subsequent rounds, the 15-yard cart was removed. Melancon was eliminated in the second round, though no quarterback could hit the elusive sideline cart for the rest of the night.
Fans weren’t disappointed.
Austin Hebert, 11, and Clay Granier, 10, said they loved getting to watch the college quarterbacks throw the football around.
“It was cool,” said Hebert, who noted his favorite part of the event was watching the quarterbacks target the moving golf carts. “I was watching Brandon Harris and Deshaun Watson. I like Harris because I like LSU.”
Carter Douglas and Spencer Armstrong, both 8 years old, also said they enjoyed the night’s festivities.
“I thought it was awesome and very cool,” Douglas said. “I like they that they were teaching all them to throw and catch and all of that stuff.”
The camp concludes on Sunday (Monday in Manila).