Grossner enjoys Manning Passing Academy
For the second straight year, Baker University football coach Mike Grossner got the chance to be around elite football players at the Manning Passing Academy.
From July 7 to July 10, Grossner worked the camp at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. Grossner views the camp as the best in the country.
"It's now the elite camp in the United States, as far as football camps," Grossner said.
At the camp, Grossner worked with a group of quarterbacks and also coached a 7-on-7 team.
"I worked with young quarterbacks during the day and I had a team at night that went undefeated," Grossner said. "I was pretty happy about that. Hopefully, that carries on into our season."
This year was the 10th year for the MPA. The camp is run by Archie Manning, former NFL quarterback, and his three sons, Peyton, Eli and Cooper. Peyton is a quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and Eli is a quarterback for the New York Giants.
Other NFL players that help with the camp are Carolina Panthers quarterback Jack Delhomme and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Brandon Stokley. Delhomme and Stokley both attended the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Former NFL player Cris Carter attended the MPA last year.
Getting in the Camp
Grossner got into the camp by talking to his friend Mike McCarthy, offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, last year. McCarthy told him to call a couple people, including Buddy Teevens, Dartmouth College's football coach. Teevens is one of a couple of men who run the camp.
Grossner made the phone calls and was invited to work the camp.
"I feel lucky to be involved with it and I will always stay involved, because once you opt out, you never get back in," Grossner said. "It's an elite camp for coaches, too. They stay pretty loyal to the guys who work it."
Grossner also got to room with Mike Sheppard, father of Baker's quarterback Brian Sheppard, at the camp last year. Mike Sheppard is the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints.
"I got to room with him last year and he helped me get established and meet some people," Grossner said.
Mike Sheppard said he really loves the camp.
"The Mannings do a great job with the camp," Sheppard said. "They are about teaching and sharing with the kids, not about signing autographs. For a three-day camp, they get a lot in."
Mannings always involved
Grossner really enjoyed how the Mannings fit right in with everybody else at the camp.
"They are right there with you," Grossner said of the Mannings. "What's neat about this camp is they are not just figure heads. If they are freed up, they will go to your group. They take over your group. He will jump in and start throwing."
Grossner said the campers get a huge thrill from catching passes from the Mannings.
"They love it," Grossner said. "Here is a high school receiver getting to catch a pass from a future hall of famer. That happens everyday and with every group. It's neat."
The Mannings also each coach a team during the 7-on-7 games. On the Saturday of the camp, many of the professional and college players give the campers something to remember.
"They put on a show for the campers one day in the morning," Grossner said. "They all go out to the main field and we fill the stands with the campers. They throw routes and put on a show with the receivers."
Brian Sheppard got the chance to throw with the pros when he attended the camp two years ago. Grossner said Sheppard impressed the pros because he was a smaller quarterback.
Mike Sheppard said he enjoyed watching his son step in with the pros.
"He loved it," Sheppard said of his son's experience at the MPA. "It was a lot of fun watching Brian jump in there and hold his own. He threw probably as well as he's ever thrown."
Picking people's brains
Grossner took the time to chat with the Mannings and many of the other college coaches and players.
One night Grossner sat around a table with Peyton, Archie, ESPN Analyst Chris Mortensen and a couple NCAA Div. I coaches.
"It was us six sitting around telling stories for an hour," Grossner said. "It was awesome. I will never forget it. And that's the way Peyton is."
One evening Grossner was sitting around when Peyton brought Stokley over to chat. Grossner had just watched the ESPN show "Teammates" in which Stokley was a contestant with teammate Reggie Wayne.
Grossner began asking Stokley a few questions about the show, because Stokley and Wayne won the show by a large margin.
The camp also served as a way for Grossner to get new ideas for his Baker team.
"I always try to pick brains and get ideas," Grossner said. "Last year I picked Mike Sheppard's brain and got two pass plays we used all year. When you're sitting with those guys, it's very easy to get ideas. What you find out more than anything is you are doing the right thing. It gives you confidence. That's what is fun about going to camp."
Grossner also talked to Peyton about some offensive plays.
"I sat with Peyton one night and they were talking about a play," Grossner said. "We used it the other night against Ottawa and scored three touchdowns with it. Peyton really explained it how it's really simple and it works."
Around 1,100 athletes attended the camp this year, nearly 300 more than last year. Grossner said the camp had to stop taking applications in December.
The camp's purpose is to create a greater understanding of fundamentals, techniques, skills, motivation and sportsmanship necessary for success at the individual offensive skill positions.
The camp focuses around the quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. It is also only available for students entering grades nine through 12.
"I love it. Camps are a grind," Grossner said. "They are like three-a-days in football. You play hard in the morning and you play hard at night, but I enjoy it. You get tired and the kids get tired, but the overall experience is neat."
One aspects of the MPA that Grossner loved was the hospitality.
"At the Manning camp, you socialize," Grossner said. "They put on three big shindigs. It's all the cajun food you can eat. They would fill up a canoe or flat boat full of shrimp that's been boiled then they just serve it out. In the South, it's all about hospitality."