Don't expect Peyton Manning to mentally dominate NBC's "Capital One College Bowl," even in the former NFL superstar's sophomore season as host, joined by his older brother, Cooper Manning, as sidekick.
Peyton Manning, 46, was the master of complex offensive schemes as a two-time Super Bowl champ for the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos. But he often looks like he's being pursued by DeMarcus Ware just reading the competition's bowl questions.
"I can't promise any improvements from me or my brother," Manning says. "We're still completely out of our comfort zone, which is probably a good thing. I spend an hour before each game working simply on pronunciation, and I still completely butcher some words. The idea that I actually know what these words mean is pretty far-fetched."
Fortunately, it's the students from the expanded 16-university competition who must answer the questions, competing for their portion of $1 million in scholarship money. Before "College Bowl" kicks off with a two-episode premiere Friday (8 EDT/PDT), Manning discussed his host survival game plan.
Peyton Manning was in Paris: But was 'crushed' when his 'Emily in Paris' cameo crashed
Question: Did you need Google and pronunciation help for that Peloponnesian War question?
Peyton Manning: No doubt. That's just one of many questions. I'm not trying to impress the students because I can't. I'm trying to stay out of the way and let them shine. That's my goal every game.
Q: This year, you've added a studio audience, making the two-minute question drill even more intense. Are you feeling it?
Manning: I don't want to say pressure. But I really want to get the words right. The last thing I want is a team getting a question wrong and losing by 10 points because I didn't pronounce the word correctly. That would eat me up. Cooper and I will start laughing because we'll see the next question in the monitor and it's one I just couldn't get right.
Q: Does Cooper write his own material, or is he just a natural sidekick joker?
Manning: He's pretty much unscripted and off-the-cuff. He's always been very quick and has always loved a microphone, from roasts to toasts. Give the mic to Cooper and look out. He even interviews a few mascots. Deep stuff.
Q: If the "Jeopardy!" host job opens up again, would you take on past host contender Aaron Rodgers for the spot?
Manning. No, no, no. That show is iconic, obviously. And Aaron could be a 'Jeopardy!' contestant. That's how unique his skills are. Our show is new, and Cooper and I could not even be contestants. But we have college spirit, the passion, which is why we fit into these roles.
Q: You were recently filmed singing "Folsom Prison Blues" onstage with Luke Bryan. Has the Johnny Cash estate asked for an apology?
Manning: I have not heard from the Cash estate. But that was not pretty, The effort is there, not the execution. At least I knew all the words to "Folsom Prison Blues." There's nothing worse when somebody gets pulled up on stage and doesn't know the words. That was for a charity event for Peyton Manning's Children's Hospital. So I didn't have a choice when Luke Bryan called me up. He was doing it for free.
Q; How will you react if Bryan asks for an encore as you two host the County Music Association Awards on Nov. 9?
Manning: I'm new to all of this world. But if that situation arises, I will use the word "Omaha" and call an audible. Nobody needs to hear me sing, especially surrounded by so many actual artists.
Q; You tried to keep your "Monday Night Football" ManningCast last year, with your other brother, Eli, expletive-free. But in the last game, you swore into a hot mic. What happened?
Manning: It's a live show, as Eli and I both found out the hard way. Eli shot the double bird in the fourth game and said, "Hey, there's a delay, right?" I'm like, "No, there's no delay. Who told you there was a delay?" So that one was completely on him. Mine was pretty real, and an honest mistake. A slip. Hopefully, I'll do better this year.
Q: How disappointed were you to see "Emily in Paris" Season 2 get snubbed for Emmy nominations, and what's next after your infamous "SNL" skit?
Peyton Manning stopped by Update to talk…Emily in Paris? pic.twitter.com/mjq9s09MaD
— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) January 30, 2022
Manning: I was very, very disappointed by the Emmy nominations. And I was also very disappointed that the cameo role they were planning for me never came together. I actually went to Paris this summer for the first time with my wife. I'd never been, and we were set to do (a Season 3 cameo). And all of a sudden we found out that the location was going to be in Provence as opposed to Paris. I had this Paris vacation planned with my wife. I didn't really want to wanna travel somewhere else to this show that I wasn't already in. So I was crushed about that. I still hope there's a chance to do it. I guess I just have to find a way to Provence.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Peyton Manning scrambles as 'College Bowl' host, vows no CMA singing