THIBODAUX — In an effort to make sure the Manning Passing Academy remains on the Nicholls State campus for years to come, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Friday that $1.2 million in state funding will be invested to improve the practice fields there.
Jindal made the announcement with Archie Manning and his sons, Peyton, Eli and Cooper, and state Sen. Norby Chabert.
“They don’t have to spend their summers here,” Jindal said of the Mannings. “They don’t have to rearrange their schedules to be here. They choose to do that.”
The Mannings began holding the camp in 1996, when Peyton was preparing to begin his junior season as the University of Tennessee’s quarterback.
The camp moved from Tulane to Southeastern Louisiana after the first year and stayed in Hammond for eight years. It has been at Nicholls since 2005.
“We’ve enjoyed our experience in this area and certainly the great folks of Nicholls State, how nice they’ve been to us,” Archie said. “We’re grateful, and we look forward to being here for many years.”
Jindal said the investment by the state will improve the drainage system of the 25 fields used for the camp. The project will be completed in time for next summer, he said.
In 2007, the Mannings worked with AstroTurf to bring a $700,000 synthetic playing field to John L. Guidry Stadium, where Nicholls plays its football games.
Jindal said the camp, which attracts about 1,200 high-school campers and big-name instructors from the college and pro game, has an economic impact of about $1.8 million on the region. To ensure that continues, Chabert said it was important to improve the fields.
He recalled watching the New Orleans Saints hold their training camp at Nicholls when he was an undergraduate at the school.
“We lost it,” he said, “because we didn’t do what needed to be done to keep an economic engine like that in this region.”
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger was expected to serve as a camp counselor for the second straight year but was not in attendance. LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said Mettenberger missed the camp this year because of academic obligations.
Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Lousville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Georgia’s Aaron Murray also were expected to attend but did not.
Former Karr standout Munchie Legaux will have a chance to start at quarterback Cincinnati this fall, but he will have to battle Brendon Kay for the starting job.
Kay started the final five games last year after Legaux started the first eight. Both are seniors.
“We’re just going to compete every day, the same thing we’ve been doing for the last two or three years,” Kay said. “We’ve become immune to it basically. It really brings out the best in both of us and pushes both of us to get better.”
Although they are fighting for the same job, Kay said he and Legaux have a good relationship.
“We have a really strong relationship from spending so much time together,” he said. “A lot of people think we would have a bad relationship because of the competition, but it’s not really like that at all. We just push each other and try to help each other get better.”
Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell has made 17 career starts, so he knows what to expect as he enters his senior season.
He knows the Southeastern Conference Western Division, once again, will be a grind.
“When you play in the SEC West, it doesn’t matter about records or any of that,” he said. “You have to come and play every Saturday. It’s kind of nerve-wracking because one week you’ve got Alabama, the next week LSU, the next week Ole Miss.”
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