LARAMIE — Brett Smith's New Mexico Bowl experience wasn't what he was hoping for nearly eight months ago.
Then a true freshman for the University of Wyoming, Smith quarterbacked the Cowboys to an 8-4 regular season and their second bowl appearance in three years. He was named Freshman of the Year in the Mountain West.
But the season ended with a 37-15 loss to Temple. UW was frustrated all day by the Owls, and Smith was 20 of 30 passing for 127 yards with two touchdowns and a season-high three interceptions.
The bowl may be forgettable for Smith, but the opportunity he embarked on Thursday could make up for the way the game turned out.
Former NFL quarterback Archie Manning was the guest speaker at the kickoff luncheon the day before the bowl. Manning met Smith and asked the UW quarterback if he would be interested in attending the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La. The camp began Thursday and was to run through Sunday.
"I said, 'Yeah, sure.' I didn't think he was serious," Smith tells the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (http://bit.ly/ScPpNi ). "Then he actually called me a month later and said, 'We'd love to have you.'
"I was like, 'You sure you have the right number?' I was kind of in shock at first, but I said, 'Absolutely, I will go.'"
Manning is the academy's executive director. Two of the notable instructors are his sons — Peyton and Eli — two of the best QBs in the NFL.
Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos in the offseason after missing all of 2011 with a neck injury with Indianapolis. Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the New York Giants in 2008 and 2012.
Smith will be with some of college football's best quarterbacks at the academy, including Southern California's Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson of Arkansas, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas and Tennessee's Tyler Bray.
The college QBs also serve as instructors for younger players, but they will get coaching from the Mannings and others.
Said Smith, "I want it to be fun. But being around Peyton and Eli, I want to get some work done.
"There will be some valuable information to take in. I want to stack up well. I don't want to go in and goof around."
Smith called it "a business trip" with the goal of proving to himself that he stacks up with these other college quarterbacks.
"It's nuts," he said. "I was telling some friends back home that I was about 6 years old when Peyton first came into the league, and I grew up watching him.
"Meeting him itself will be really cool, let alone to workout with him and have him coach me."
Smith said he isn't sure about the specifics of the workouts. One thing he knows is there will be a skills competition, which includes quarterbacks throwing at moving targets on golf carts.
According to the web-site for the academy, its purpose is to "create an environment of greater understanding of, and the proficiency with, the fundamentals, techniques, skills, motivation and sportsmanship necessary for success at the individual offensive skill positions ... while expanding the overall knowledge and strategy of offensive play and defensive coverage."
Added Smith: "(I want to) learn more about the Xs and Os and see if there are tips they have where if I see a certain coverage I know where to go with the football."
Not only does Smith get to work with Peyton Manning, he will also be around Archie Manning.
His grandfather's favorite quarterback was Archie Manning, who played for New Orleans, Houston and Minnesota in the NFL from 1971-84.