THIBODAUX – Maybe it had something to do with Lucky 13 but the football gods didn’t rain on Archie Manning and the Manning Passing Academy.
Days of rain related to an approaching Tropical Storm Cindy had the Manning Passing Academy in doubt earlier in the week. When camp time arrived Thursday, conditions for the 13th edition of the MPA to be held on the Nicholls campus were surprisingly dry.
“Monday night, you don’t know. I understand the media has to kind of go overboard sometimes to make sure people are ready,” Manning said after Friday morning’s session. “I’m not saying we had ‘fake news,’ but I called the president (of Nicholls, Bruce Murphy) and my guys Monday night and had a conversation and I asked if we need to call this thing off. Mostly, I was thinking about the parents coming a long way with their children.
“We had plans for (Thursday evening, the start of camp) to be a washout. Everything we would do, we would do inside. We did everything outside and we had a great day.”
Less than 50 of the more than 1,200 campers failed to show up. The 13th MPA to be held in Thibodaux in the annual event that is 22 years old mostly dodged inclement weather and had Manning offering a few kudos to former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal.
“I’ve got to throw some love at Governor Jindal, again. One of the reasons we came here, we needed more grass space. That 10-acre field out there – that was a huge part of it. We didn’t know it didn’t drain,” Manning said. “The rain we’ve had, there is no way we would be on that field now.”
“Governor Jindal helped us out,” Manning continued. “We had several hundred kids on that field today and that field is dry. I am so impressed with that. Otherwise, it would be hard for us to have a camp or we would have to cut it down to 500 kids instead of 1,200. You are going to have some rain. He saved us there and it’s never been more evident than this week.”
For the most part, the Manning Passing Academy has featured typical hot and humid Louisiana summer days but has been able to work around any heat-inducing showers over the years.
“I remember we had them in the parking lots here. I had a daddy tell me one time, ‘I didn’t think I’d ever see my son throw an out route in the parking lot in Thibodaux, Louisiana,’ but we get them out there,” Manning recalled.
A grant by Jindal and the state to Nicholls allowed for a new drainage system for the practice fields three years ago and the campers have not had to go back to the parking lots for workouts.
“He did it after he considered the economic impact we make on this area for four days. We make about a $2 million economic impact in the Thibodaux-Lafourche area with hotels, restaurants,” said Manning.
Now, it will take more than rain to get the campers off the grass fields.
“We practice in the rain,” said Manning. “Lightning, we come off (the field). Rain, we practice. I tell our kids one game next year in high school you will be playing in the rain and you will think back, ‘I’m doing well here because of my experience at the Manning Passing Academy. They taught us the wet-ball drill.’”
So, all is well for a Manning Passing Academy that looks to have many more years to come. Arch, Cooper’s son, is taking part in the MPA for the first time. He’s just a bit younger than Uncle Eli was when he took part in his first MPA.
“We cheated a little bit. You are supposed to be in the eighth grade. Arch is going into the seventh but he can keep up. He’s got all his eighth grade buddies from the Newman middle school, so we are happy to have Arch,” grinned Grandpa Archie.