Penn State coach James Franklin referred to the Mannings as the "first family of college football." So he couldn't pass up hosting Eli Manning, and his alter ego Chad Powers, for an incognito football tryout.
Eli Manning brought the crew of his "Eli's Places" ESPN+ show to Penn State in August for a love letter to walk-ons and a surprise tryout at quarterback. Wearing a blond wig and rubber chin, Manning auditioned for Franklin under the alias Chad Powers, creating what has become a college football micro-sensation and the most popular fictional Penn State player since Hingle McCringleberry.
The full show airs Wednesday on ESPN+, but the network released the tryout segment on its Youtube channel. The video has generated about 5 million views and even some merchandise.
So how did Manning choose Penn State for his tryout-in-disguise? Franklin explained the process at his weekly press conference.
First, Franklin said he has a good relationship with the Manning family, including Archie and Peyton, whose Omaha Productions produces the show. In addition, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford has been a counselor for several summers at the Manning Passing Academy, which also helped, Franklin said.
Ultimately, Franklin liked the idea and how it would promote the program but didn't want the show interfering with training camp (Manning's group visited in August). It didn't. Franklin gave up about 10 minutes for his part of the bit and loved the finished product.
"... Really, they were able to do 99 percent of it kind of without messing up our normal routine. I think I had to give them 10 minutes of my time, which took time away from either lunch or my walk, which was good. So once I was comfortable with the fact we were going to be able to do that, and it not impact our normal routine or become a distraction, then we were all about it."
Even better, Manning stayed to award punter Barney Amor a scholarship, fulfilling the episode's mission to highlight walk-ons (or run-ons, as Penn State calls them).
"I hope people watch, because it was cool and funny," Franklin said.
Here's the segment with Manning's tryout as Chad Powers. Watch the full episode of "Eli's Places" on ESPN+ beginning Wednesday.
AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, opinion and perspective on the SI.com network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich. And consider subscribing (button's on the home page) for more great content across the SI.com network.