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IOWA CITY — With more than 20 recruits taking official visits, the last weekend in June had plenty of importance for Iowa football.
Almost 1,000 miles south of Iowa City, Spencer Petras also was having an important weekend for an entirely different reason.
“Any time you can spend time with three Hall of Fame quarterbacks, you’re going to pick up on some stuff,” the Iowa quarterback said Tuesday.
Iowa’s starting quarterback for most of 2021 was among the 40-plus college quarterbacks who worked as counselors at the annual Manning Passing Academy last month in Thibodaux, La.
As the name of the camp suggests, being a counselor there results in time with legendary quarterbacks Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.
Petras and the other college counselors received some on-field coaching from the Manning family and had a Q-and-A with the Hall of Famers.
“I learned a lot,” Petras said. “Got a lot of notes I brought back.”
Other beneficial experiences from the camp included simply “watching Peyton Manning operate” in staff meetings and seeing “how intense he is, even today when he’s retired and just kind of doing fun stuff.”
The camp also served as an opportunity to bond with other quarterbacks who experience the same challenges that come with being the most visible (and often most scrutinized) athlete in a college town that cares intensely about its football team.
It was “part of what made that such a special, special weekend,” Petras said.
“Alex (Padilla) got a taste of it, but for the most part, there’s no one on campus that has to go through exactly what I do,” Petras said. “Being around 45 or probably 40 other quarterbacks that do, was great. It was great just knowing everyone’s going through the same stuff.”
His roommate was Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell — the same quarterback who torched the then-undefeated Hawkeyes for 375 yards and two touchdowns in 2021 while completing 75 percent of passes.
"After a little while, there was definitely a lot of friendly smack talk,” Petras said.
The Big Ten West quarterbacks enjoyed getting to know each other better and had a FaceTime call with ex-Hawkeye and current Purdue wideout Charlie Jones.
“I’m mutually friends with a lot of guys Aidan’s friends with,” Petras said. “I met him after the game, but never really spent time with him. But he’s a great dude.”
Petras’ takeaways from the camp were “definitely more mental” than physical although he had the chance to showcase his arm strength, too.
A video showing Petras fire a pass about 70 or 75 yards downfield during the camp went viral on Twitter.
Many Iowa fans were surprised. Iowa teammates weren’t.
“I've been saying for years that he could do it,” cornerback Riley Moss said. “I’m glad everyone’s starting to realize the kid can throw the ball.”
Once, a confident Petras challenged former Hawkeye quarterback Nate Stanley to a “little throw-off” in the summer of 2019 — before Petras’ second season in Iowa City.
“I think he hit 79,” Petras said. “I hit 78.”
Petras thinks the results would be different in 2022, but one might not want to hold their breath for that rematch.
“Especially now that he’s lost some weight, I can get him now,” Petras said. ”It’s just not smart to test. The risk-reward is not there.“
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