High Hopes At Manning Academy

(from left) Kamana Hobbs, Ephraim Tuliloa and Wayne Taulapapa are headed to Louisiana for camp | Photo from Garry Hobbs

You might not think that Thibodaux, La., is the place to be in the hot and humid summer of the Deep South. But this week, hundreds of outstanding high school football players from all around the United States will descend on the small town outside New Orleans for the prestigious Manning Passing Academy. At least four of them will have Hawaii ties.

Marcus Mariota, former quarterback with the Saint Louis Crusaders and now a Heisman Trophy candidate at the University of Oregon, will serve as one of the counselors at the camp held each July at Nicholls State University, former home of the New Orleans Saints training camp. This year’s academy, with many D-I stars mingling with NFL greats, starts Thursday and runs through Sunday.

And of course there will be plenty of Mannings – Peyton, Eli, Archie, et al. – supervising and getting involved in many of the drills.

“I’ve watched them on TV all these years, and now learning from them will be exciting,” says 15-year-old Ephraim Tuliloa of Laie, an up-and-coming quarterback at Punahou who will be a sophomore this next season for the Buffanblu.

Tuliloa is one of three Punahou standouts who will take part in the Manning Academy. The others are 16-year-old wide receiver Kamana Hobbs and 15-year-old running back Wayne Taulapapa.

“I’ve heard so much about the camp from family friends and what you can get out of it,” says Hobbs, who will be a junior. “I know we’re not there to see famous football stars, but to learn. I’m hoping to learn a lot about reading coverages, getting off the ball and route running. It means a great deal to me to try to play at the highest level.”

“It’s an honor to be there and to show that Hawaii has plenty of good players,” says Taulapapa, who will be a sophomore in the fall. “There will be so many coaches and great players there. It will be fun to learn about catching balls out of the backfield, pass blocking and improving technique.”

Tuliloa says that seeing the work ethic and passing style of players such as the Mannings and Mariota will be a real plus. “I’m very excited to work with such great quarterbacks,” he says. “Reading coverages, throwing techniques, decision-making – we’ll be able to work on all of that while we build confidence.”

The camp also provides an opportunity for the local players to get off the island and to experience another culture. None of them has been to a Mainland camp before, and they all know that Louisiana is a lot different than Hawaii.

“I’m looking forward to experiencing new styles of food – spicy stuff, Cajun-style,” says Hobbs, who will fly to Louisiana from California after taking part in the Stanford baseball camp just days before. “It will be great to spend some quality time with my team-mates and help us become better friends.”

“I know it will be really hot there. We’ll have to hydrate a lot,” says Taulapapa.

“I don’t know what to expect, but I’m eager to see the competition,” says Tuliloa. “It will show us how we stack up against the others. I want us to watch and learn, show class and represent Hawaii well.”

This week, local players go camping in Louisiana. Read more about at manningpassingacademy.com.