July 13, 2013 9:20:11 PM
STARKVILLE -- While growing up his entire life in the state of Mississippi, Tyler Russell has learned a valuable lesson. When Archie Manning calls you, answer the phone.
Russell's result from taking that phone call allowed him to be one of the few participants in the nationally recognized 18th annual Manning Passing Academy this past week at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux.
"I am honored to be asked by the Manning family to participate in the Manning Passing Academy," Russell said Wednesday. "I look forward to working with knowledgeable NFL coaches and elite NFL quarterbacks, and applying what I learn toward a successful senior season back in Starkville."
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.
Over the course of eight 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 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).
This represented the second summer Russell has donated his time to a youth camp as he was a trainer at the Elite 11 camp for the 11 best high school signal callers every year.
The Manning Passing Academy is a camp that caters to offensive skill positions and involves the counseling of the three Manning brothers Cooper along with his NFL signal calling siblings Peyton and Eli.
"You're naturally in that leadership role playing quarterback," Peyton Manning said to the New Orleans Times Picayune. "You better be in there lifting weights with the linemen and running sprints with the receivers. Having that platform as a hard worker is important to be a leader at that position."
Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Friday the camp will get a upgrade with a $1.2 million investment into improvement of the 25 fields the academy utilizes on the campus of Nicholls State.
"Eli was a camper when this thing started and Peyton was a junior at the University of Tennessee," Archie Manning said. "Hopefully we're doing something right and it takes a lot of people to make this thing happen."
n OG Gabe Jackson and Nickoe Whitley named to watch lists: Mississippi State's seniors Gabe Jackson and safety Nickoe Whitley were named to separate National College Football Awards Association watch lists Thursday. The nomination for both of those players marks seven different MSU players named on six different national award watch lists.
Jackson was included on the watch list for the 2013 Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the best interior lineman in college football by the Football Writers Association of America.
"I know Gabe wants to come represent Mississippi State, wants to have another opportunity to represent the people of the state and show what he can do on the field as well as continue to develop to become a better football player and get his degree and walk out the door successful," Mullen said.
The Liberty native made the list for the second-consecutive year after earning All-America honors as a junior in 2012 by Phil Steele, Scout.com, Pro Football Weekly and Sports Illustrated. Jackson, a 2013 preseason All-American by Phil Steele, is the second-rated offensive guard prospect by CBSSports.com.
"This year we have like the most mature offensive line that we've ever had since I've been here," Jackson said. "And we have a older group of guys that is ready and hungry to get better and stuff. So I think that would be a plus."
Whitley appeared on the watch list for the 2013 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented annually to the national defensive player of the year, as chosen by the FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. Whitley, a 2013 preseason All-SEC safety by Phil Steele and Athlon Sports, started in all 13 games last season and tallying 88 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and one fumble forced.
"With Nickoe, he's played with Cam Lawrence and Johnthan Banks for two years. So they kind of had unspoken way to communicate and get lined up and get the calls." MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said. "Now he's had to step up. He need to get the young guys like Justin Cox's and Kivon Coman's to play on that same level."