Peyton Manning Shares the Story Behind His 25-Year Friendship With Kenny Chesney

Peyton Manning is a noted fan of country music, and the former NFL star has formed friendship with a number of the genre's biggest names, including Kenny Chesney. Appearing on Luke Combs' Bootleggers Radio on Apple Music Country, Manning reflected on his "great friendship" with Chesney, which started back in 1996, when Manning was playing football for the University of Tennessee Volunteers.

"Met Kenny on the sidelines of a Tennessee-Alabama game," Manning recalled, sharing that Chesney, who grew up in Knoxville, was "a diehard Tennessee fan" and had "played the national anthem, sang 'Me and You' I think at halftime and hung out on the sidelines for the game. And he was into it. He wasn't just thinking it was cool to be on the sidelines. He was into the game and you felt that." The Louisiana native and Chesney "connected then," and Manning saw Chesney "play a couple of shows at a fair in Knoxville, up in Bristol." "A lot of his songs were coming out at the time," he said. "And you felt that connection going to school in Knoxville and following a guy that was from the area. You felt even a closer bond with that performer. And Kenny ended up singing at the church at my wedding. He performed 'Me and You' for my wife and I for our first song at our wedding reception. So just been good friends since then."

Manning told Combs that he has seen Chesney in concert "a bunch" over the years and has stepped on stage with the singer "too many times." "I apologize to all the fans that had to hear me sing 'Back Where I Come From,' as opposed to letting Kenny sing it," he joked. "But Kenny liked bringing me out there, and believe it or not, Luke, back in the pre social media era, he actually put a guitar on me and put me in with the band. He put me in G. I don't know what G really is, but I get in G and just stay at it. And played the whole show. What a great way to watch a concert. The sight seeing, the energy, it was awesome. I think those days are over I think."

Along with Chesney, Manning also has country music-famous friends in Eric Church and Brad Paisley, the former of whom Manning has "gotten to know these past few years." "I think my appreciation for his music has grown even more with hearing his story, and hearing how he got started in the industry, and the time and the work that he puts in, and ideas for songs," Manning said of Church. "I mean, to me, it's the process."