Peyton Manning Appreciates His “Friendships” in Country Music

Peyton Manning is grateful for the friendships he’s formed in country music. Though he’s served as co-host of the CMA Awards in Nashville for two consecutive years alongside Luke Bryan, the NFL star admits that he didn’t grow up a country fan. Born and raised in another live music mecca, New Orleans, Louisiana, Manning says that he wasn’t exposed to country music much, as the city is most famous for jazz music. But when he attended college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where he played for the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team, he quickly became a fan of the genre.

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“When you spend four years in college in Knoxville, country music is right in front of you,” he explains to American Songwriter and other media at a press conference ahead of the 2023 CMA Awards. “I just jumped right in and embraced it.” During his time at UT, the future Super Bowl champion started attending country concerts and met many of the artists, including longtime friend Kenny Chesney, whom he met on the sidelines of a UT game.

[RELATED: CMA Awards Hosts Luke Bryan & Peyton Manning Look Forward to “Life-Changing Moments”]

Chesney performed at Manning’s wedding in 2001 and he’s recently struck up friendships with rising stars Jordan Davis and Parker McCollum, the latter of whom is performing at his March 2024 charity event, Celebration of Caring Gala, in benefit of the women and children’s wing of the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. “That’s been the coolest part for me is getting to know these artists as friends, not just as entertainers,” he continues. “I’ve appreciated their friendships.”

Manning recalls meeting fellow Louisianian Davis in 2019 when the singer shared that they had previously met when Davis was a high school quarterback in Shreveport and attended Manning’s high school football camp in 2004. “I said, ‘Obviously, we coached you right into country music,'” the Pro Football Hall of Famer laughs. “Couldn’t help him much as a quarterback, but I love stories like that. I love to hear where the artists have come from, to know the hard work that these artists have put in to reach their dreams. It’s been a lot of fun for me and I really do value these friendships that I’ve made. I enjoy getting to know new ones each year.”

(Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

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