July 16, 2013 7:27:47 AM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University senior quarterback Tyler Russell knew the one thing he would get out of his first experience as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy in Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., would be figuring out to lead a group.
With Russell being asked to incoporate more input into the MSU offense by Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen, the former Parade All-American at Meridian High School had his notebook out and was writing down everything Peyton Manning and Eli Manning were telling him about leadership qualities.
"I had my pen and paper out and was writing everything they were saying down," Russell said. "It was such a blessing to have Mr. Archie Manning call me on the phone and ask me to come down there to be a counselor at the camp because I knew it was a way to give back to the community. You have to appreciate opportunities like that."
Russell was joined by five former No. 1 overall picks in the NFL Draft at the camp , including three of the last four: Matthew Stafford (2009), Sam Bradford (2010) and Andrew Luck (2012). University of Mississippi's Bo Wallace, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Georgia's Aaron Murray, Florida's Jeff Driskel and South Carolina's Connor Shaw were other quarterback counselors chosen from the Southeastern Conference.
"I enjoyed the most just being with the kids and getting a chance to know some of the top notch quarterbacks in the SEC and in the country this season away from football," Russell said. "Going down there and watching those guys for the first time after never having met them personally was remarkable because you immediately start to understand it didn't just come easy for them either. We have a lot of depth in the SEC at quarterback this season."
Over the course of three days, hundreds of campers were taught the basics of the offensive skill positions from the Manning family and their fellow counselors including the quarterback, running back, tight end and receiver positions. Russell, a two-year former camper at the Manning Passing Academy, had a 7-on-7 team go undefeated in the drill section of the final day and throughout the camp was instructing the three-step drop to six different groups of quarterbacks.
"It helped me to be fast on my feet to come up with different things that I could do and helped me be a leader as well," Russell said. "You got anywhere from 14-17 kids from another coach and they're just looking at you excited because you play college football. Everything you say they'll soak it in and so I tried to not overload them but give them a little technique to work on that you may take from granted. You've got kids down there that had never taken a three-step drop from under center."
Russell and Mullen spent their final spring session together trying to exploit more of a pro-style offense with the fifth-year senior under center much more.
"I love being under center now and it's something I didn't think I would like very much but once I got my footwork down, it's a whole lot easier in terms of play fakes and little things," Russell said.
Russell, a 2013 preseason Maxwell Award watch list, broke 11 single-season school records as a junior while completing 231 passes for 2,897 yards and 24 touchdowns. The 6-4, 220-pounder currently stands as the school's all-time leader in passing efficiency (136.38), and is only one passing touchdown away from tying the school record for passing touchdowns held by Derrick Taite (1993-96).
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