Shawnee Dispatch

Carder picks Mannings’ brains at academy

Former SM Northwest quarterback Alex Carder, now entering his senior season at Western Michigan, passed for a career-high 479 yards in a win against Connecticut last season. Carder was recognized this month as a Mid-American Conference Player to Watch for 2012. Enlarge photo

July 31, 2012, 12:20 p.m. Updated: 1 August 2012, 12:00 a.m.

In the summer, football players at any level are doing the same thing: preparing for the upcoming season.

One former Shawnee Mission Northwest quarterback received an extraordinary opportunity to do so when he was selected as a counselor for the Manning Passing Academy on July 12-15 at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La.

Alex Carder, now entering his third season as starting quarterback at Western Michigan, received a call from Archie Manning to be a college quarterback counselor and help lead the rest of the more than 1,200 campers. The counselors consisted of NFL position coaches, dozens of high school coaches and 40 current college quarterbacks.

Carder admits he was a little star-struck when Manning called, but once he got to Thibodaux, he realized the Mannings were easy people to talk with about the game they’ve built their lives around.

“One of things I liked most about the Mannings is they’re so approachable,” Carder said. “Down-home good guys that made great decisions.”

The Manning Academy assembles eighth- through 12th-graders into seven-on-seven teams.

Carder said he was a motivated player before the camp, but seeing the Mannings up close makes him even more motivated for his senior campaign.

For Carder, it was quite the experience to not only help out the up-and-coming talent but also absorb some of the knowledge of Peyton, Eli and Archie Manning.

What impressed Carder the most was the ability to bring some great minds of the game together.

“Just to see the caliber of guys they draw in there,” Carder said. “Being the Manning family, they’re the only people who could pull that off.”

While at the camp, Carder mentored some of the kids through the five days of football work, but when the college players had a moment, they weren’t afraid to pick the brains of Peyton and Eli.

During the week, the counselors had a few chances to meet during an open forum and ask the Mannings about what has made them so successful.

Since he started playing football at 7, Carder showed many of the tools to become a talented quarterback.

He displayed many of them at SM Northwest, being named to the All-Sunflower League team three times while a Cougar.

This also included a Sunflower League and regional championship in 2007 when SM Northwest posted a 9-2 record.

However, Carder’s really blossomed the past few years at Western Michigan, including breaking a school record in 2011 with 3,873 yards.

But until he reached Western Michigan he developed more of his cerebral approach.

“I became a student of the game, more than just a player,” Carder said.

Over the years, Carder has realized there’s always more to discover in football.

“There’s always more to learn, and this game is so complex in so many facets,“ Carder said.

Carder began a more extensive preparation for games with film study and recalling certain situations at a much faster pace. With this newfound regimen, Carder began to become harder on himself.

“As soon as I came to college, I was given the chance to be a lot more self-critical,” Carder said.

Now all that criticism has paid off with Carder hauling in preseason award watch-list notices. Among the accolades he’ll be targeted for are the Walter Camp and Davey O’Brien awards for best player and best quarterback, respectively.

Carder also returns to the NCAA this season as the nation’s top returning quarterback in total offense with 345.25 yards per game in 2011.

All the individual attention is great, but Carder’s focus is on the task at hand.

With his last chance in college, he’s wanting to make sure expectations are high enough to make some noise at the end of the fall.

“A MAC Championship and that’s exactly what it should be,” Carder said. “If we play consistent and do our job on every single play, myself included, there’s no reason with the schedule we have and the people we’re playing, we shouldn’t win the MAC title and go to a great bowl game.”

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