Country music fan Peyton Manning hosts the CMA Awards with Luke Bryan


INDIANAPOLIS — Peyton Manning has his sleeves rolled up, a whiteboard in front of him and a dry-erase marker in his hand. He drew the play – a stage with circles below representing audience members. On stage, Manning and country music star Luke Bryan.

“I’m going this way,” Manning says as he circles the board with an off-stage left arrow, “and somebody comes in and tries to tackle us?”

“Peyton, that’s not gonna happen,” Bryan said deadpan. “It’s an award show.”

The show is the CMA Award which airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ABC and Manning’s tackle question to Bryan is a joke, of course. These NFL-related jokes came into full force in promotions as Manning and Bryan teamed up to co-host country music’s biggest night.

The two held a boot camp for an ABC promo where Bryan interviewed Manning with photos of country music legends like Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker. They practiced their high fives, Manning telling Bryan to watch his elbow as they came together to make contact, after a missed slap.

Bryan, who hosted the CMA Awards solo in 2021, says he knows what Manning’s arrival was like.

“I had to do it myself last year and obviously didn’t do a good enough job, so we had to go see the big guy here,” he said, pointing to Manning.

The two jokes that ABC brought in the “reliever”.

Since his NFL career ended with two Super Bowl rings in his pocket, one with Indianapolis and the other with Denver, Manning’s career as an on-air guru has skyrocketed. In addition to his countless television commercials, he and his brother Eli have become stars of ESPN’s ManningCast, where the two announce and analyze Monday night football games.

And so, Bryan said, he’s not worried at all with Manning on his side.

“I’m definitely not nervous about him and Peyton messing around, because he’s got all the television stuff,” Bryan said in an ABC promo, as Manning laughed back- plan. “I mean, just watch the Super Bowl. It accounts for 83% of Super Bowl commercials.

‘I’m a country music fan’ man

Manning may be the one who’s a little nervous.

“It’s different for me because Luke is one of them, okay Luke is in the arena with all these artists,” Manning said. “For me, I’m a fan. I really appreciate all the talents of these men and women.”

Manning has always had a fondness for the country music scene. He’s got that southern drawl, country music friends and he wasn’t too shy to get on stage and sing along with some of country music’s greatest performers.

Manning is a close friend of Kenny Chesney who, in 2001, at the height of his and Manning’s career as a Colts quarterback, spoke to IndyStar.

“We do all kinds of crazy things together,” said Chesney, who met Manning when he was playing for Tennessee, Chesney’s favorite college team. Chesney sang at Manning’s wedding. Manning sang onstage during Chesney’s concert at the Super Dome in New Orleans (Caesars).

“He really loves country music. He loves to sing,” Archie Manning, Peyton’s father, told IndyStar at the time. “(But) I don’t think it will be a second career for him.”

No. Manning’s second career appears to be in television. And he will present this Wednesday at the 56th annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

“When I was asked if Peyton Manning was someone I would consider co-hosting with, I didn’t hesitate,” Bryan said in a statement. “We’ve become great friends over the years and what he brings to the table is going to make it even more awesome. I know he’s been to the CMAs before, but he’s never been with me. Hey Peyton, I hope you’re ready for the night of your life.”

IndyStar will post updates as Manning hosts the CMA Awards.

Follow IndyStar sportswriter Dana Benbow on Twitter: @DanaBenbow. Contact her by email: [email protected].


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