Peyton ManningNFL legend and… country music nerd?
Yes, that’s one thing.
On Wednesday night in Nashville, Manning co-hosts the 56th edition of the CMA Awards alongside returning emcee Luke Bryan. This is the first time the Country Music Association has hired a professional athlete to host its annual shin-dig; the last time someone hosted the show that was not a country star? 1968, when actor and Roy Rogers wife Dale Evans co-hosted with her husband (Manning, 46, would not be born until almost eight years after that show).
But a lack of CMA hosting experience doesn’t mean Manning is new to country music.
“He’s an amazing quarterback and a great guy and a huge country music fan,” Bryan told The Tennessean earlier this year. “It’s going to be fun being on stage with him.”
Before the show, let’s delve into some of its history with Nashville’s best-known export.
He’s a big guy from Eric Church
Manning’s parents raised him on Elvis Presley and Beatles records, but at the University of Tennessee he started spinning another artist: George Strait. He discussed the origin of his country music fandom last year on Luke Combs’ Bootleggers radio show.
“[I] got to see George in concert in Knoxville, he came to play at the Thompson Boling Arena,” Manning said. “[I] I got to meet him in, I mean, 1995. It was a real thrill and he and I have been a friendship ever since. So I couldn’t choose the top 10 [songs] without putting on a George Strait song, and ‘Amarillo by Morning’ is my favorite.”
For his modern go-to, Manning spins another artist known for tearing up hit after hit at arena-sized shows: Eric Church. Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton introduced Manning to the tunes of Church, he said to Combs.
Manning appreciates the conductor’s music as much as the offstage work ethic, he said.
“I mean, for me, it’s the process, right?” Manning said. “You always hear Nick Saban in Alabama talk about the process. … It’s no different for you guys, all the work behind the scenes. He’s a grinder. He loves it. He loves everything about it. He’s great in concert, in person.”
Jump on stage
Manning is known for crashing a few scenes, like when he joined Brett Eldredge in Denver, sang “Friends In Low Places” with Dierks Bentley earlier this year and surprised audiences by watching Kenny Chesney – a native of is from Tennessee and longtime friend who performed at the quarterback’s former wedding – inside Mile High Stadium last summer.
Don’t expect him to release an album anytime soon.
“He really likes country music. He likes to sing,” Archie Manning, Peyton’s father, once said to the IndyStar. “(But) I don’t think it will be a second career for him.”
Manning the Media Star
Outside of his penchant for country tunes, Wednesday marks Manning’s latest move as a growing media personality. Since leaving the field, he has started Omaha Productions, a growing entertainment company responsible for the popular ESPN2 show “Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli.” The company works in television programming, commercials, and podcasting, among other businesses.
Regarding his growing media business, Manning told Axios earlier this yearr: “It’s a second chapter for me. I never had a plan for what I wanted to do after I finished playing because I never had time to think about it. I was just thinking about the soccer.”