Sunseri: Panthers quarterback ecstatic about Manning camp

PITT FOOTBALL


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Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri was sitting in his communications class a few weeks ago when his phone started buzzing with a call from an unfamiliar area code.

He stepped outside to check his voicemail, and couldn't believe who he heard on the other end of the line. It was NFL Hall of Famer Archie Manning, father of current NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, inviting Sunseri to help coach at the Manning Passing Academy, an annual camp in Louisiana for high school football players.

Sunseri didn't wait long to accept.

"I jumped on it," he said. "I wanted to go down there and absorb all I could."

Sunseri spent Thursday until Sunday at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. Along with the Mannings, the camp's coaches included former NFL coach Jon Gruden, former NFL player Mike Mayock and 29 other college quarterbacks, including Stanford's Andrew Luck and Boise State's Kellen Moore.

"To be able to talk to the other QBs about how they did stuff, how they handled themselves, it was definitely a great weekend," Sunseri said.

Sunseri, a redshirt junior, said the quarterbacks began working out as soon as they arrived on campus. Teamed up with Eli Manning, Sunseri watched the Giants signal-caller run through drills before trying himself.

"You'd get four or five reps and [Eli] would sit back and watch and he'd kind of critique how you were handling yourself and what he thought," Sunseri said.

Even though Peyton Manning couldn't participate in physical drills because of offseason neck surgery, Sunseri said the Colts quarterback was helpful in teaching how to study film.

"Peyton was basically able to go in and tell us how he looked at things, how he broke it down in a general sense," Sunseri said.

He added that his biggest lessons from the weekend were not necessarily X's and O's, but rather preparation and training techniques.

Sunseri and the other coaches had to take what they learned from the Gruden, Mayock and the Mannings and communicate them to the 1,200 high school players in attendance.

The camp was held in the heart of Southeastern Conference country, but Sunseri said he was surprised by the number of campers who knew about the Panthers.

"I went down there not expecting a lot of people to know about the University of Pittsburgh," he said. "Most of the [popular] schools are SEC or [Atlantic Coast Conference] schools, but the little kids down there and everybody was excited about Pittsburgh. They knew about Pitt."

Last year, Sunseri beat out Pat Bostick for the starting job and led the Panthers to an 8-5 record. He completed 64.5 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

As Pitt players adapt to new coach Todd Graham's no-huddle spread offense, Sunseri said his time at the camp taught him that preparation was more important than schematics offensively. He pointed out that even though Peyton and Eli play in different systems, their offseason preparations are the same.

"Even though it's two totally different offenses between last year and this year, we're able to basically put it together," he said. "You have to move the ball down the field and you have to score points."


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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