Thibodaux — Eli Manning sees a lot of familiar faces every year at his family’s Manning Passing Academy, which unfolded for the 19th time this weekend at Nicholls State.
Some of the high school and college coaches in attendance have helped out for nearly two decades, and many of the campers return, just like he did in his four seasons at Isidore Newman, before continuing to contribute as a coach and counselor as he built his career with Ole Miss and the New York Giants.
In the coming years, he’ll become much more familiar with one of those faces. Former LSU star receiver and fellow Greenie Odell Beckham Jr., who was picked 12th overall by the Giants in this year’s NFL draft, showed up Thursday to get in some extra work with the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
“Obviously, as a quarterback, any time your team drafts a wide receiver in the first round, you’re always excited about that,” Eli said of the selection. “But I’ve known Odell a long time.”
Eli said the first time he threw passes to Beckham was during the receiver’s junior year at their alma mater, where they both shined — Eli finishing with 7,389 yards and 38 touchdowns, Beckham becoming the second player to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a season threshold at the school (the first was Cooper Manning, the eldest of Archie’s sons).
Eli watched “numerous games” of Beckham’s prodigious career at LSU and got to know him more when Beckham helped out at the camp in the summers — but even though he was aware of what Beckham could do, he claims he had no say in the decision.
Quite a coincidence.
“That’s for the scouts. They understand who’s the best one out there,” Eli said. “But I was excited when I heard his name called. I knew we were getting a good player.”
What Eli wasn’t excited about, big brother Peyton said, was the blemish on Newman’s up-to-that-point perfect record at the top of the draft.
“Odell said Eli was giving him a hard time — that being picked 12th killed Newman’s average of having the first pick,” Peyton said cheekily.
In all seriousness, Peyton said, he was happy for all involved and mentioned there was the possibility he could’ve ended up throwing to Beckham for a few years.
“I’m proud of Odell. I’m happy for Eli getting Odell,” Peyton Manning said. “I know the Broncos were really interested in having him. I enjoyed following his career at Newman and at LSU. You’re always following guys from Louisiana, from your hometown, and I think he’ll be a really effective player in football for a long time.”
Archie also followed Beckham’s career, and Eli’s new weapon particularly impressed him with the way he defied expectations in the lead up to the draft. Beckham wowed attendees at this year’s combine with his 4.43-second time in the 40-yard dash.
“I remember people speculating after LSU’s season that he’d be a second-round pick, and he went 12th,” Archie said. “That’s a real credit to him and his work. Hopefully he can stay healthy and get out to a good start. I know Eli is glad to have someone of his ability.”
Eli could use him after throwing a career-high 27 interceptions. The Giants started out 0-6 last season and never recovered, finishing 7-9. The offense ranked 19th in passing, 28th overall, prompting seven-year offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to retire before he could be fired.
Enter first-time coordinator Ben McAdoo, who was an offensive assistant for the Saints in 2004. He may be new to the position, but his last two years spent as the Aaron Rodgers’ position coach bring some promise.
“This spring was a lot of work,” Eli said. “It was a lot of studying, preparation, meeting time, staying after. We put in a lot of extra work, a lot of effort to get comfortable in this offense and get where we need to be.”
When he wasn’t poking fun at Odell, most of Eli’s conversations with him involved the new offense. Among OTAs, minicamps and the extra day of work on Thursday, Eli has gotten a feel for how Beckham can fit in.
“Odell’s speed and playmaking ability should be a good threat,” Eli said. “We’re going to move him around, put him in different spots and see if we can get him in the open field, if he can make some big plays for us.”
The Mannings got many questions about the “Newman Connection” Friday, and Beckham would have gotten much of the same if he’d been made available to the media. He left after his session Thursday to prepare for a training trip to Arizona and did not respond to phoned interview requests.
A common thread will only get him so far, and there’s a lot of work to do. Starting with training camp, every day of the distant future will be a Manning camp for Beckham.