THIBODAUX, La. — Every summer, the Manning Passing Academy hosts the biggest and most noteworthy collection of elite college quarterbacks in America.
This year is no different, with projected Heisman Trophy frontrunners and potential first-round NFL Draft picks like Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Oregon's Justin Herbert all accepting invites. But demographically, this year's Manning Passing Academy included an interesting twist.
The 44 quarterbacks who accepted invites to work as camp counselors at this year's Manning Passing Academy represent colleges from 27 different states. Naturally Louisiana, the camp's host state, is the best represented with seven quarterbacks.
But after Louisiana, no state has more colleges represented at the Manning Passing Academy than Mississippi.
All three of Mississippi's FBS programs sent quarterbacks to the Manning Passing Academy. Graduate transfer Tommy Stevens is representing Mississippi State, junior Jack Abraham is representing Southern Miss and redshirt freshman Matt Corral is representing Ole Miss. Louisiana Tech starter J'Mar Smith is a Meridian native who impressed as a two-sport star at Meridian High School, graduating in 2015.
For Stevens, this camp is his first opportunity to meet his in-state rivals. After transferring to Mississippi State from Penn State in May, Stevens is the newest member of the Mississippi quarterbacks brotherhood. Because of that, Stevens said he's using the Manning Passing Academy to not only put faces to names, but also learn what he can from the fellow quarterbacks at the camp.
"We're not competing with each other," Stevens said. "It's not like there's one spot for one of us to play. From the things we've done so far, it's been more like idea bouncing. 'What do you do well in your game that I can bring to mine?' Just some of those sort of things. It's been really cool. A lot of talent here and a lot of different brains to pick."
Abraham and Corral are roommates this weekend, grouping two quarterbacks with Oxford connections. Corral is expected to take over as the starting quarterback at Ole Miss this season, while Abraham led Oxford High School to three straight state championship appearances, becoming the first quarterback in Mississippi high school history to throw for 12,000 yards along the way.
Abraham said his roommate relationship with Corral is going well, describing the California native as "cool, funny, laid-back and nice."
"It's been cool to talk to those guys and see their journey throughout football," Abraham said. "Tommy's been around a good bit. He's a good guy. He can spin it too. So can Matt. It's cool to have Mississippi represented well."
Smith also has a preexisting relationship with Abraham. They played together at Louisiana Tech for a season before Abraham transferred.
Smith spoke highly of Abraham, calling him a "workaholic." Smith went on to say he thinks that quality is a product of being from Mississippi, which he thinks instills a certain type of work ethic into its athletes.
"I think some of the athletes [from Mississippi] get overlooked," Smith said. "I've seen a lot of athletes get overlooked. I think sometimes we just have to work a little harder. It's just how we're brought up. In Mississippi, we get taught tough. You're kind of born with it."
When it comes to producing high-level college football talent, Mississippi is coming off one of its best years on record.
In 2019, Mississippi produced 16 players ranked as four- or five-star prospects in the 247 Sports composite rankings, the fifth-most of any state behind only Texas, California, Florida and Georgia. Two of those recruits, Arkansas signee KJ Jefferson and Ole Miss signee John Rhys Plumlee, were quarterbacks.
Before Jefferson and Plumlee, however, Mississippi had only produced three other four-star quarterbacks since 2010, lending some credence to Smith's theory of quarterbacks from Mississippi having to work harder to be noticed.
For the Class of 2020, Mississippi has 48 recruits rated as three-star or higher in the 247 Sports composite rankings. Only one of those players is listed as a quarterback: Will Rogers, a three-star Brandon product and Mississippi State commit.
But at the Manning Passing Academy, for at least one weekend, players like Smith and Abraham, plus Corral and Stevens by extension, are able to make a name for quarterbacks from Mississippi. It's something Smith said he can only see as a positive.
"It's a great representation of the whole state. We have three other quarterbacks from Mississippi here. Some of us don't get this opportunity. It's unlikely for us to get this opportunity. It's great that we're putting on for the state. It's great for our hometowns and our school. It's just great for all of us to be here."
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or email@example.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.