- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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A year ago, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson was just starting to learn the ropes of being a full-time starter in the SEC.
Talented and equally tough, Wilson proved he could throw the football with anybody in 2011, and led the league with 3,638 passing yards.
He’s back for a second season as the Hogs’ starting quarterback, and the expectations for him and the team are as lofty as ever. One of the things that best prepared Wilson for what he was getting into last season was his experience at the Manning Passing Academy.
He makes a return trip to Thibodaux, La., beginning Thursday, along with some of the other top college quarterbacks in the country, and will value his time with the First Family of Quarterbacks even more the second time around.
“It’s the little things you pick up that mean the most,” Wilson said. “When Peyton or Eli or Archie walk into the room, it’s the way they carry themselves. It’s their mannerisms. The room just stands still.
“They exude leadership, and that’s what you’ve got to have if you’re going to be a great quarterback.”
Leadership will be more important than ever this season for Wilson, who has already shown this past spring and summer, during the most trying of circumstances, that he can be a rock for his teammates.
Wilson was one of the players who stood up and sternly reminded everybody in the locker room that nothing had changed, including their goals, after Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long delivered the sobering news to the team that Bobby Petrino had been fired as head coach.
More importantly, Wilson went out and practiced with that same purpose, led with that same purpose, and attacked the summer conditioning program with that same purpose.
But the quarterback is the leader of your team. And when he’s one of your best leaders, and also one of your best players, that’s when you typically have something special.
“That’s one of the things you notice right away about Peyton and Eli. They just have that presence about them,” Wilson said. “Some people call it a swagger. Some people call it the “it” factor. Whatever it is, they have it.
“You just want to be around people like that, and if it rubs off on me, that in itself is definitely worth the trip.”
Wilson said the camaraderie he establishes with the other quarterbacks at the camp serving as counselors also comes in handy. He and former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden still keep in touch after hitting it off last year.
Among the quarterbacks scheduled to attend this year are USC’s Matt Barkley, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Florida State’s EJ Manuel, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace and Tennessee’s Tyler Bray.
“I like seeing all the different personalities,” Wilson said. “Some guys are more laid back in how they attack the game, and some are real technical in their approach. I find it fascinating that the game can be played both ways.”
Now that he knows what to expect, Wilson feels like he will get even more out of this year’s experience.
“You make sure you soak up everything you can, and you also make as many connections as you can,” Wilson said. “The most important thing, though, is spending time around Eli, Peyton and Archie, and realizing that the reason they’re so successful is because of the kind of people they are.
“That’s something you carry into every huddle, every meeting and every workout.”
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