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Rubbing shoulders with the elite

Christian Wilkinson doesn't take selfies often, but he couldn't pass up the chance to snap a shot with Peyton Manning over the weekend. Wilkinson was in Louisiana attending the Manning Passing Academy.

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Christian Wilkinson has one rule when it comes to taking selfies. If the rising junior quarterback for the Pioneers is going to snap a photo of himself, Peyton Manning has to be included.
Wilkinson rubbed shoulders with the best quarterbacks from all levels – including the Denver Bronco signal caller – last weekend when he attended the Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.
Asking Manning for a photo wasn’t easy, but Wilkinson said he couldn’t pass up the once-in-a-lifetime chance.
“Peyton came to one of my drills one day and I got a chance to snap the ball to him a couple of times while he taught us,” said Wilkinson. “I took the opportunity to snap a selfie with him. He looks as good as always throwing the ball.”
For the third straight year, Wilkinson made the trip down to Nicholls State University to work at the prestigious camp run by the Manning family. Peyton, his brothers Eli and Cooper and his father Archie Manning are the head instructors, while several NFL and college coaches and college quarterbacks work with top high school prospects as well.
Wilkinson’s leaders included Oregon’s Marcus Mariota – a favorite to be next year’s No.1 pick in the NFL draft – Anthony Boone from Duke and Oklahoma signal caller Trevor Knight. All three left an impression on Wilkinson.
“I’d say my favorite was Mariota, just because he’s so good at what he does and is really calm and patient,” said Wilkinson. “I really liked Boone too. He was always up-tempo and a really funny guy.”
One of the big treats of the camp was getting to watch the college QBs try to outduel the Manning brothers in an air-it-out competition, where all the quarterbacks try to hit moving targets. Oregon State QB Sean Mannion won the event.
Some of the other quarterbacks Wilkinson ran into while at the three-day event were last year’s Heisman Trophy winner and leader of the national champion Florida State Seminoles Jameis Winston, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Justin Worley – the potential starting quarterback for Tennessee. Wilkinson also got a chance to speak with ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who played QB at Ohio State.
Wilkinson soaked in everything he was taught by his instructors. Among those tidbits were how to run the zone read – part of new Pioneer coach Scott Smith’s system – from Mariota, lessons about having a short memory from Boone and getting pointers from Manning.
“I learned a lot about the zone read from Mariota. He’s obviously pretty good at it,” said Wilkinson. “Anthony Boone really emphasized about living to play another down. He talked about getting greedy in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl and costing Duke the game on a pick-6.
“Peyton talked about seeing downfield and not getting caught up with everything in front of you. He stressed keeping your eyes up.”
Wilkinson will get a chance to showcase his newfound knowledge for the Pioneers when fall practice starts Monday, July 28. Wilkinson came out of spring practice in a battle for the starting quarterback position and turned heads recently during 7-on-7 scrimmages.
Wilkinson hopes to have his number called in the starting lineup when the Pioneers open play Friday, Aug. 22 at DeKalb County.


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