Maryland QB C.J. Brown prepares for preseason camp after Manning Passing Academy gig


(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Baking in the dry Louisiana heat, beneath a cloudless sky and unforgiving sun, Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown found himself working alongside the nation’s top quarterbacks. He attended the Manning Passing Academy last weekend as a counselor, charged with helping handle the 1,000-plus energetic high schoolers in attendance.

Beside him were his peers from all walks of college football, not to mention Archie, Eli and Peyton Manning. They woke up early, taught drills, coached seven-on-seven teams and, once night rolled around and the humidity retired, went out to eat and talked football.

Aside from a private workout with the Manning brothers on their first day — an hour and a half of footwork, routes on air and similar drills — coaching at the academy was more about fostering connections, Brown said, and bonding with fellow signal-callers. He mentioned Florida’s Jeff Driskel, Wake Forest’s Tanner Price and North Carolina’s Bryn Renner as particularly strong acquaintances.

“It’s funny, when you’re around a bunch of quarterbacks, you can definitely tell we’re quarterbacks,” Brown said Tuesday by telephone. “Everyone’s really easy-going, the conversation flowed easy. Everyone’s real competitive, not afraid to speak their mind. You could tell they were leaders on and off the field.

“You’re there for the kids. All these guys come and they want to hang out with college guys, and of course the Mannings. You want to develop relationships and hang out and step back from the game. You’re still focused on football, but you get to hang out with other college quarterbacks of that caliber. It’s a good time to connect and develop relationships.”

Brown flew into Louisiana on Thursday and returned to College Park on Sunday. At one point, the college counselors sat down with Eli and Peyton for an informal question-and-answer session, picking their brains on everything from on-field leadership to developing chemistry with receivers and game-day approach.

“The concept’s the same, but maybe the approach was different,” Brown said. “Working routes on receivers, not having all the receivers all at once, but bringing two or three guys out, hey we’re going to work on two or three routes at once, instead of going through the whole route tree. It’s something to take into consideration, because you want to master those routes right away.”

If anything, the camp got Brown even more excited for the upcoming season, his fifth at Maryland. He’ll be listed as a junior after the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility, tasked with revitalizing an offense that suffered all manner of medical hardships last season. Brown, who hasn’t suited up for a game since November 2011, says he’s “100 percent” recovered from the torn ACL suffered last August and recently was cleared to work out without a brace.

“It feels really good,” Brown said. “I feel a lot faster than I did with it on.”

Quarterback play remains a question mark for Maryland, especially given all the injuries last fall, but the team is all-in on Brown as its starter, confident that his time away — Manning Passing Camp included — has transformed him into a better leader and quarterback. He’ll represent Maryland at ACC media day this weekend alongside cornerback Dexter McDougle.

The Terps have one more week of workouts left before a one-week vacation. They return in early August for preseason camp. Media day is Aug. 5.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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