Famous fathers’ shadows don’t deter young quarterbacks

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Southern linebacker Franchot West chases down Grambling quarterback D.J. Williams during the second half of the Bayou Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012.
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Southern linebacker Franchot West chases down Grambling quarterback D.J. Williams during the second half of the Bayou Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012.

THIBODAUX — Some names are too famous for a quarterback to scramble away from.

Manning. Williams. Montana. Hebert.

That’s why their sons decided to become second-generation QBs, despite the increased attention and expectations.

All four fathers enjoyed NFL success, from becoming franchise icons to earning Super Bowl MVP honors. Three of the sons are training to match, if not surpass, those feats this weekend at the Manning Passing Academy.

The other two sons — Peyton and Eli Manning — have escaped the scrutiny of their father’s football shadow with their own NFL success and are operating the annual camp at Nicholls State. They’re offering the latest batch of young quarterbacks an opportunity to learn many of the tips they once gleaned from Archie, an Ole Miss legend and former Saints quarterback.

The elder Manning has watched his sons transform from pupils to professionals to professors.

“It makes me feel old,” he said, half-joking.

Grambling quarterback D.J. Williams — son of Doug Williams, a Grambling legend and Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Washington Redskins — embraces the pressure. Even if he hadn’t followed his father’s path at Grambling, he said fans still would know his football lineage.

“Never be afraid of the pressure. Never be afraid of being great,” he said. “I feel like, why run from (the pressure)? It’s going to follow you anywhere you go.”

Tulane’s Nick Montana is the lone famous son in this group whose family hails from outside Louisiana. His father, Joe, led the San Francisco 49ers to four NFL titles in the 1980s.

“Everyone is going to say there’s pressure; I look at it as a plus,” said Montana, a junior-college transfer who shares his father’s eyes and golden hair. “There’s a lot of things I can use to help me get better thanks to my dad — his knowledge, his experience. I just try to look on the plus side, make everything a positive.”

Also at the camp is Nicholls State junior Beaux Hebert, son of Bobby. Until Drew Brees came to New Orleans, Hebert led the Saints to their most successful seasons in franchise history, including their first playoff appearance in the 1987 season.

When Eli Manning had to decide between Ole Miss, Texas, Virginia and other schools, he didn’t let his father’s legend stop him from realizing the potential for growth under David Cutcliffe, who coached him with the Rebels.

“I thought he could help me become the best player and have a great offense and great success,” Manning said, “and that was a big part of me going to Ole Miss, the school I grew up with and rooted for.”

At Grambling, Williams hopes the lessons learned at the Mannings’ camp transform him into a full-time starter. Montana is expected to enter Tulane’s fall drills as the favorite to start. Hebert is in line to be the No. 1 quarterback at Nicholls State.

They admire the Manning brothers because of their similar tale.

“It can get hard sometimes, living up to the pressure,” D.J. Williams said. “But for the most part, man, it’s a great feeling. I look up to the Mannings and Nick Montana because they understand what you have to go through when your dad was a Super Bowl-winning quarterback — or just a great quarterback, period.”

The sons just want to be one, too.