LOS ANGELES -- USC fourth-year junior quarterback Cody Kessler made the trek to Thibodaux, Louisiana, last weekend to take part in the Manning Passing Academy, where he not only served as a camp counselor to the throng of high school players in attendance, but also to interact with and compete against a host of other top-notch college quarterbacks, including Florida State's Jameis Winston, UCLA's Brett Hundley and Oregon State's Sean Mannion among others.
"It was a great experience," said Kessler, who started all 14 games for the Trojans in 2013. "There were a lot of other great quarterbacks there which was really cool -- You know, getting to throw against guys from across the country."
And it's safe to say that Kessler, who completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,968 yards and 20 touchdowns with seven interceptions last season, more than held his own. In the main event of the camp, the Air-It-Out Challenge on Saturday night, Kessler advanced all the way to the semifinals. Mannion eventually won the competition.
"The stadium at Nicholls State was packed, which was cool," Kessler said. "So we were throwing routes on air, and then we threw at targets, but it got competitive. Everyone there was competitive, so we got into it. Me and Sean were going back and forth -- he's very accurate. It was cool. We were telling everyone else, ‘Pac-12!'"
Even more beneficial than the competitive aspect of the camp, however, was the tutelage Kessler was able to receive from the Manning brothers.
"I think the best part, just overall, was learning and absorbing stuff from Peyton and Eli both," Kessler said. "I got to talk to them a ton during the week."
It was Peyton, in particular, who had an especially profound impact on Kessler.
"Just the way that he goes about his business, because Peyton is obviously arguably one of the best players to ever play the game," Kessler said. "He just taught me his routine and he taught me stuff to work on with Nelson [Agholor] and some of the other receivers."
Now back on campus at USC, Kessler already started putting that newly absorbed knowledge to use this past week during the team's volunteer workouts, all with an eye towards fall camp, which starts up in just a little over two weeks, and the season ahead.
"I'm ready for fall camp," Kessler said. "The summer is nice, to be able to get a little break, but it's been too long to be away from football for me, so I'm ready for camp and for the season to start."