THIBODAUX — For Tanner Lee, things were much different this time around at the Manning Passing Academy than they were two years ago.
Back then, Lee was just a wide-eyed kid who had just finished his senior season at Jesuit.
“I was star-struck when I first met Peyton Manning,” Lee recalled.
This week, the Tulane redshirt sophomore served as a camp counselor, helping tutor high school quarterbacks from all over the country at the annual clinic hosted by the Manning family at Nicholls State.
He admits things are a little different going from camper to counselor, being a teacher instead of a student.
“It’s completely different,” Lee said. “You get to be around the Mannings and the coaches a lot more.
“It’s really neat to hang out with a lot of the guys you watch on Saturdays. After games, you see a lot of these guys on ESPN. So to be here with them is a special thing.”
Lee was one of almost 40 college quarterbacks on hand to help out with the camp, working alongside players like TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, who were in the Heisman Trophy conversation last season.
“Just being around the older guys and seeing their demeanors and the ways they handle themselves,” Lee said about the experience. “Guys like (Southern Caliornia’s) Cody Kessler and (Penn State’s) Christian Hackenberg.
“They have been big name guys for a while now, so it’s neat to be around them.”
Lee recalled how influential the counselors (former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson and Southern California’s Matt Barkley) were when he was at the camp two years ago.
“I knew when I was here back then that I wanted to be a counselor one day,” Lee said.
But now Lee is hoping that some of the things he has learned and taught at the camp will translate to the upcoming season with the Green Wave.
He completed 185 of 336 for 1,962 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, which started with him becoming the first freshman in school history to start a season opener.
The Green Wave finished 3-9 in its first season in the American Athletic Conference after previously having played in Conference USA.
Lee is hoping to turn things around this season.
“We are definitely looking to improve,” Lee said. “We are older with a year of experience now. We want to win the conference. We want to win a bowl game.
“We want to start being competitive, especially in the new conference.”
That turnaround will begin with Lee, a former three-star recruit who once threw for 552 yards and seven touchdowns in a high school game against Shaw.
Lee was one of three players from Louisiana colleges who served as counselors at the Manning Passing Academy.
He was joined by Tuskani Figaro of Nicholls State and Johnathan Williams of Grambling.
Williams, like Lee, was once a camper and now is seeing the camp from the other perspective.
“It was great when I came,” said Williams, a Tampa, Florida, native.
“My coach back then was actually Sam Bradford. I learned a lot while I was here, and I applied it when I got back to school. Now it’s a lot different. It’s amazing to see the kids come out and want to learn and how they look up to you.”
“When we were standing out there the other night and looking at the other counselors, it was pretty cool,” Lee said.