At the time when he was coaching running backs at Louisiana Tech, Brent Indest admitted to being a little wide-eyed when he served as an instructor for his first time at the Manning Passing Academy.
“It’s a Who’s Who of people, and the first thing is you get a little star-struck,” Indest said. “You walk in the room and there’s (ESPN NFL analyst) Jon Gruden, (ESPN college football analyst) Jesse Palmer and (ESPN’s) Chris Mortensen.”
That’s not counting the NFL’s first family of quarterbacks with former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning and his sons Peyton of the Denver Broncos and Eli of the New York Giants conducting the camp.
“At some point, each of the Mannings (counting former Ole Miss wide receiver oldest brother Cooper) will go out of their way to touch someone,” Indest said. “Peyton takes this very serious. He’s focused and makes sure this is run as well as possible.”
Indest, who is heading into his third season at Catholic High-New Iberia, was the lone coach from the Acadiana area to take part in the four-day event that celebrated its 20th anniversary this weekend and wrapped up Sunday.
It was Indest’s seventh consecutive year to participate in his role as instructor, working primarily with the tight ends.
“The two biggest misconceptions of the camp is that it’s a camp for just elite players,” Indest said. “Most of these kids are trying to make their high school teams and earn a starting spot. The second is that it’s just a quarterback camp. It’s about anyone who throws and catches the ball.”
The Manning Passing Academy caters to 1,200 participants from 46 states and Canada on the campus of Nicholls State with a group of 110 instructors, 25 of whom, like Indest, are high school coaches.
Indest attributed his long-standing relationship with Frank Scelfo, currently the quarterbacks coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, as his key to getting into the tight-knit fraternity of coaches who either have ties to the Manning family or camp co-founder, current Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens.
Even for Indest, considered among the state’s top coaches and brightest offensive minds, the camp also serves in some ways as an unofficial coach’s convention. Trade secrets are shared, and the ability to glean one item that could benefit a respective school can turn into coaching gold.
Indest said he befriended a college coach a year ago whose school had played against option-based Navy in 2013. The coach handed over a DVD’s worth of Navy’s offensive plays. Indest, who had standout quarterback Jason Pellerin, found one option play in particular that fit right into his system.
“It was a difference-maker for us,” said Indest, who guided the Panthers to the Division III state title game last season. “It ended up being one of our best plays.”
Indest also has 200-game winner Frank Monica of St. Charles Catholic, his annual roommate at the camp, who has a wealth of knowledge to discuss concepts and bounce ideas off of.
“Without a doubt, Frank Monica has more energy than anyone,” Indest said. “I work twice as hard so he doesn’t make me look bad.”
Each day is structured, starting with an 8 a.m. coaches meeting that carefully lays out the day’s events.
The first of two practices begin at 9, followed by lunch at 11 a.m.-noon, another meeting for the instructors before a second practice starts at 2:30.
Dinner is served followed by 7-on-7 competition on Friday and Saturday evenings. There was one final practice on Sunday and a 7-on-7 championship.
More than competition, the camp also fosters a sense of camaraderie that filters to the instructors.
Indest said he’s become life-long friends with Newman head coach Nelson Stewart, whose team his Panthers defeated 55-35 in last year’s Division III state semifinals.
There’s also an appreciation Indest has developed with former instructors who were college quarterbacks, ranging from last year’s Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon to Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and former Heisman finalist Collin Klein of Kansas State.
“Socially, in the evenings, you get to eat together and hang out with these guys,” Indest said. “The neat thing to me is I’ve had a great time talking to some of these guys. I know for a fact what a wonderful home being Mariota is. The guy from Kansas State is one of the finest kids I’ve ever talked to. It left a lasting impression on me.”