Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel may not have had the most memorable time working at the Manning Passing Academy this past weekend, but Ball State wide receiver Willie Snead sure did.
“It was cool,” Snead said. “To be able to catch balls from Peyton and Eli (Manning) just felt crazy.”
Snead has long dreamt of catching passes from NFL quarterbacks and due to his father, Willie Snead III, he was invited to work at the camp with younger receivers before doing some work of his own with some of the best college quarterbacks in the country, as well as the Manning brothers.
“The Mannings are great guys,” Snead said. “I chatted a bit with Peyton, and Eli threw me a deep post (route) and I caught it, so that was cool.”
Snead's father is the head coach at Palm Beach Lakes High School in West Palm Beach, Fla., and has worked at the academy in prior years. He mentioned to the Mannings that his son would be a good counselor, as well as target for the college quarterbacks to throw to, and Snead couldn't get down to Louisiana quickly enough.
He spent a few days working with the high school players before the college guys got together over the weekend.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron was at the Academy, as was Florida's Jeff Driskel and Miami's Stephen Morris. Snead said Manziel “made an appearance,” which resulted in a national story after the Texas A&M quarterback was sent home from the camp early by the Mannings.
With all of that talent surrounding him, one would think Snead might have felt out of his element a bit. But the Cardinal junior said working two seasons with current Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning prepared him well.
“If Keith were there with me, he would have stood out,” Snead said. “After throwing with Keith for two years, then going and experiencing other quarterbacks, he's right up there with those guys. Keith could have really competed with those guys.”
Though just an offseason training session, the competition and focus that Snead had to bring when working with the Mannings proved to be very intense.
“You have to be a little faster in your routes,” Snead explained. “They both threw a really good ball so I just had to make sure that I got my head around so I could see the ball.”
Over the past two seasons, Snead has evolved into one of the premier pass-catchers in the country.
He hauled in 89 catches last season for 1,148 yards, which tied for third most in Ball State history. He also tied for first in the nation in plays from scrimmage of 10 yards or more with 58.
Snead worked with LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. at the camp, whom he measured himself against during their time together.
“I felt like I could stack up with him,” Snead said. “He's a great player, but I feel like I'm up there with all of the other receivers.”
Ball State will open the 2013 season at 7 p.m. Aug 29 at home against Illinois State.