NFL Star Peyton Manning & Wife Ashley Thompson's Love Story

They've been married for over two decades.
Inside Peyton Manning & His Wife's Love Story
Photo: MCT/ Tribune News Service / Getty Images
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Brittany Barber
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Updated Jan 30, 2024

Retired quarterback Peyton Manning and wife Ashley Thompson (now Ashley Manning) represent one of the most enduring relationships in the world of NFL players' relationships. Their story began during Peyton Manning's college days at the University of Tennessee, marking the start of a journey filled with shared experiences and mutual support.

Manning's name is synonymous with excellence in the NFL… and not just because football runs in his family (his brother Eli Manning and father Archie Manning are also retired NFL players). He has had an exceptional professional career that spanned over 18 seasons, despite suffering a serious neck injury in 2011. He is celebrated for his profound understanding of the game and record-breaking achievements, including two Super Bowl victories and five MVP awards.

Thompson, who maintains a low profile, met Manning the summer before the football star's first year at the University of Tennessee. The pair were married in 2001 and eventually welcomed twins in 2011. They prefer to keep their personal lives away from the limelight, but here's what they have shared about their love story, family and achievements over the years.

Who is Peyton Manning's Wife, Ashley Thompson?

Although the couple met in Thompson's hometown of Memphis while Manning was at the University of Tennessee, Thompson ended up attending the University of Virginia. "I'm very independent," Ashley told Indianapolis Woman magazine in 2006. "I do a lot of my own things. I like to stay out of the spotlight; people may think I am aloof, but I'm not, and I am not shy by any means, but I always let Peyton shine."

According to Denver Post, Ashley applied to be a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, Tennessee's NBA team, in 2012. "I am very excited to make the commitment to join the potential new ownership group of the Memphis Grizzlies," she said. "As a native of Memphis, it was important to me that the Grizzlies remain in Tennessee and continue to have a positive impact on the community."

"I am proud of Ashley as she pursues this opportunity with the Memphis Grizzlies," Manning said in a statement. "While my focus is on playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos, I look forward to watching her become involved with her hometown team."

Peyton Manning and Ashley Thompson's Relationship Timeline

Peyton rides on a Disney float in a parade with his twin children
Photo: MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images / MediaNews Group RM / Getty Images

August 1993: Peyton Manning and Ashley Thompson meet

​​According to People, the couple met the summer before Manning's first year at the University of Tennessee. "It was in August, at one of the few fraternity parties I went to. We were introduced and only talked a little while. I didn't make a big first impression (she said later my pastel shirt was a turnoff) but I was certainly impressed," Manning wrote in his book Manning: A Father, His Sons and A Football Legacy.

"With all her qualities, I think what pleased me most about Ashley, though, was that she liked me for who I was, not what I was," he continued.

1999: Peyton Manning and Ashley Thompson start the PeyBack Foundation

The PeyBack Foundation helps out local community
Photo: @peytonmanning / Instagram

Both Manning and Thompson have long embarked on philanthropic pursuits. In 1999, the couple founded the PeyBack Foundation, a program that provides support for at-risk children. The couple have also worked together on projects to benefit the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent.

March 2001: Peyton Manning and Ashley Thompson get Married

After a secret engagement, the couple tied the knot on March 17, 2001. According to the groom's father, "Peyton didn't want it to be a story during football season, so they kind of keep it quiet." Manning's father added that the wedding was quite the affair. "It's a pretty big wedding, probably 600 people or so," Archie Manning said.

September 2005: Peyton Manning and Brother Eli Manning Provide Katrina Relief

The Mannings grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, so Hurricane Katrina had impacted their family personally. In response, the brothers helped organize a delivery of relief supplies to Baton Rouge. "It's hard to watch what's happened to the city, people with no place to go, up to their waists in water. We just wanted to do something extra, so we set up this plan to help some of these people," Eli Manning said to CNN in 2005.

March 2011: Peyton Manning and Ashley Thompson welcome baby twins

According to reports by People, the couple welcomed a baby boy and girl on March 31, 2011: Marshall Williams and Mosley Thompson.

May 2011: Peyton Manning suffers a severe neck injury

According to the Washington Post, Manning nearly retired after developing a serious neck injury. After having surgery in 2010 for a pinched nerve, he needed two more surgeries in 2011 for a herniated disc. The surgeries left his right arm numb and his hand too weak to grip a football. When it came to throwing, Peyton said, "I had to relearn."

March 2012: Peyton Manning joins the Denver Broncos

After being released by Indianpolis post-surgery, Manning seriously considered retiring. Instead, he ended up playing for the Denver Broncos for another four seasons and winning the Super Bowl 50 championship in his final year on the team.

He credits his wife for giving himself the push to keep playing. "Ashley was the one that was saying, 'Peyton, you've got to try. You've got to try,'" he said in an interview with Sports Illustrated. "Once I did it, I was going at it and then I started seeing a little bit of light there," he continued. "So, yeah, she was the one who kind of pushed me through it."

2016: Peyton Manning retires from the NFL

Peyton Manning retires his number in the NFL
Photo: Bobby Ellis / Stringer / Getty Images North America

After 18 seasons in the league, Peyton retired from the NFL at the age of 39. During his retirement speech, he expressed his gratitude for his long and successful football career. He also thanked his family. "There is no way to measure or properly express what a family like mine can mean. Mom, Dad, Cooper, Eli, extended family, you are the best. Ashley, your support is as potent a motivator as any man can have. Ashley's and my kids, Marshall and Mosley, have only been around for a couple of years but they have changed my life forever."

As he wrapped it up he said, "Well, I've fought a good fight. I've finished my football race and after 18 years, it's time. God bless all of you and God bless football."

2023: Peyton Manning becomes a Professor at his Alma Mater

After retiring, Manning was appointed a professor of practice by the University of Tennessee's College of Communication and Information. Thompson has stayed out of the public eye since her husband retired from the NFL.

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