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Peyton Manning

Even if you are not a huge football fan, you are probably familiar with the name Peyton Manning. Today, he is a Super Bowl winning quarterback in the NFL for the Denver Broncos, however, his start in life, was by far, more challenging. Born with a cleft palate, Manning struggled with feeding and bullying, and had to endure several surgeries throughout his childhood.

The Struggle

On March 24,1976, Peyton Manning was born with a cleft palate. A cleft palate is a physical deformity of the mouth, when the two plates of the skull that form the hard palate, also called the roof of the mouth, are not full joined, causing a gap. As is the case with most children suffering from a cleft palate, Manning faced several challenges. As a baby, Manning had to use special bottles, because the hole in his palate caused the milk he was being fed to come out his nose.

As a child, Manning had two surgeries to close the gap in his palate and to make sure it stayed securely closed as he grew. He also had a bone graft to fill his upper gum line, which helped stabilize his upper jaw and allowed his mouth to support permanent teeth. Dental visits were a constant, as were braces, which he wore for over ten years to help straighten his teeth. Peyton Manning’s struggles were not only physical but mental as well. Due to his many health issues and physical appearance, he was often bullied by other kids and called names. Through it all, he followed his dream to play football, which led him all the way to the NFL.

Giving Back

Even after becoming a well-known football star, Manning has always been open about his struggles as a child. In 1998 he teamed up with Saint Vincent’s Children’s Hospital in Indiana by helping promote their services and programs, as well as being an active member when it came to fundraising. In 2007 St. Vincent’s Children’s Hospital changed it’s name to reflect it’s biggest benefactor, and became Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent. The hospital includes The Pediatric Craniofacial Center, which provides diagnosis, treatment, and support for children who suffer from disorders or deformities to the head and face. They are one out of only six centers in North America designated for the Cleft Palate National Outcomes Project, and has treated over 800 infants and children.

In 1999, Peyton Manning created the PeyBack Foundation, which provides programs and opportunities to at-risk children. To date, the Peyback Foundation has provided over $10 million through various programs and grants that help promote leadership and success to disadvantaged youth in Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, and Tennessee. The Foundation offers programs as well as partnering with other organizations, to provide the best for their youth, and maximize their success.

Peyton Manning does not only financially support these causes, but is very active in the day-to- day activities by visiting and participating often. He has a personal relationship as well as a public one, and it is obvious that these causes are important and personal to him.

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  1. He is a class act…one awesome dude

    1. Absolutely a class act.

  2. This may very well be a miracle to me !!!! I’ll be sending a letter tomorrow but for NOW I WANT TO COMMEND YOU PEYTON MANNING , AS A HERO !!! A WONDERFUL , HUMAN BEING restoring MY HOPES in people. I’m a 53 YR old woman with the same history . YOU’RE A GREAT GREAT PLAYER !!! HONORABLE PERSON AND YOU”VE MADE MY HEART SMILE AGAIN!!!! JUST LIKE IT DID WHEN I FIRST SAW YOU PLAY!!!!! THANKS PEYTON , FOR HELPING ALL THOSE CHILDREN and families !!, SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE !!!! IT IS A TERRIBLE. THING FOR ANYONE TO ENDURE !!!!! I remember begging my mother to take me out of school !!!! Hard. MOSTLY FROM THE MOCKERY! GOD BLESS YOU !!!! Anxiously , waiting to see your passes at the game!!!!!! – CANDI PRICE

    1. Hi Candi,
      I also have a cleft lip and palate. Many surgeries and much bulling–got to say it made me pretty damn strong. I also have serious ear issues–frequent ear infections. Not fun stuff. His story really resonates with me. Good to see another woman with the same issues. God Bless.

      1. I was born with a cleft palette slso. I remember hating school so much they actaully had to pry my hands off the door jambs going into school. I remember the kids teasing me because I talked funny and pick on me all the time. It helped that I had a cousin the same way, which is like my sister. My hats off to Peyton Manning for giving back to the kids. I wish someone would have done it for us 46 years ago. I have to cheer for the Broncos now, because survivors have to stick together.

        1. I will never understand the behavior of bullies , and HOW THEY CAN HURT PEOPLE in such a way . It still hurts to this day . Now that social media and “SELFIES” are so much a rage . I have had about 13 surgeries I guess . I am 54 . Something terrible happened to me a few years ago , and I reversed some of the restoration , because i was having terrible , horrific , TRAUMATIZING SKIN REACTIONS , no doctor I went to knew what was wrong . I found on the internet — an article about “Allergies to dental materials ” so I painstakingly removed some of the work , and have missing teeth unable to afford dentistry . I am disabled . THAT’S HOW BAD THE SKIN was. The Neuropathy It covered my entire body . My kidneys failed and I was diagnosed with a rare blood disease where my blood clots and thickens when I get cold. SO I stay practically in a shell. … a box . Afraid to be seen . Afraid to get cold. The social media and the “SELFIE CRAZE” has played it’s role in my reclusiveness , and the worst part …is the LAST PLASTIC SURGEON in 1996 , my biggest request was ” Make my lips so I can “PUCKER” and kiss” …….HE DIDN”T DO IT . So I have cried every day for years . I don’t date. I am 54 , and have remained single . Wanting to kiss has always been the worst part . Even if it’s just my sister. The lips have been repaired a little bit and the palate has , along with the nose . At one point , after my last surgery – I hit the ground running , found a full time job and had a lot more confidence for quite a few years . I was successful once in society. But then I was diagnosed with illness and had to leave my job / However , I have improved . I fight daily to get stronger . I wish the world wasn’t so vain but it is , and we have to accept it . I HURT for these children . ALL OF THEM . For whatever difference they may have . It is cruel . But God will take care of that in due time. Not wishing vengeance , only speaking truth. Peyton Manning – I LOOK UP TO YOU , for not building your ego , but creating “LIFE” for these kids and families !!!! IT”S A GREAT AND GOD-LIKE ACCOMPLISHMENT !!!!! It’s why we are here. God bless you and your family!

  3. I have a brother that was also born with a cleft pallet, so I know the struggles they face. Like Peyton, my brother had corrective surgery and now you would never know it.

  4. He will go down in history as one of the greatest QB’s to play the game, but even more so as one of the greatest class act’s to ever don a uniform in any sport. Go Peyton!

    1. A great football player and person.

    2. I AGREE!!!!!!!!!

  5. I never knew this, but it just makes me respect him more!

  6. Payton has always had a supporter an fan in me. Let show the panthers a kick ass performance in Superbowl 50. I believe in a great leader , person, humanitarian, and QUARTER BACK. God bless you MR. MANNING

  7. Who’s business is Peyton’s medical information? How do we know this is even true. All the baby and boyhood pictures I’ve seen of him do
    not show any of what you are stating. Find something else to occupy your time.

    1. It says he had a cleft palate, not a cleft lip and palate. A cleft palate, is not noticeable from the outside, and is not noticeable at all once repaired. Babies can be born with both, or one or the other condition and are not always born with both. Proud mom of a cleft lip and palate child, who had 8 surgeries before age 8 and 2 more before graduating high school, plus braces and an implant.

    2. You are a real ass. It would have taken 10 seconds of your time to fact check this with any other source. But no, you had to boost your sour ego with rudeness and accusations about a man’s personal struggle willingly shared to support the charity he created and where he still donates his manpower.
      Who is wasting whose time here?

    3. Well, you are special kind of stupid aren’t you? Here’s something to occupy your time. Look up cleft palates and search by images and get back to me. We stopped counting surgeries for my cleft lip and palate kid after his 10th one. He just turned 24 and had his final procedure at the end of 2015.

    4. As a person who was born w/ a cleft lip and palate and with a daughter who was also born this way, once you have your surgeries, your pictures don’t confirm whether or not you had this. Secondly, your palate is inside of your mouth and usually most people don’t take pictures of their palate. I can also state that the bone grafting part would be true as well. My daughter had her bone graft 4 years ago and you don’t even know after someone has it done. As a general rule, bone is taken from your hip and placed into your mouth in a small amount. It takes a long time for it to graft to replace the missing portion so that your teeth will brow in. Both myself and my have worn braces. My daughter is on her second round of braces after her bone graft. With a cleft, it is generally common to wear braces since teeth generally grow in crooked or many times not at all. Also, people with cleft lip/palate may many times have speech disorders and require many years of therapy. I didn’t and my own daughter hasn’t but we were very lucky. As for the bottles, this is very true. My daughter was fed using a special type of bottle known as Haberman feeder. Just because in your own perception he didn’t have something doesn’t make it true. Unless you’ve lived with it like I have and my daughter has, then maybe you shouldn’t comment about things you know nothing about!!!!

    5. Wow. Why try to turn a positive, inspirational story into something negative ?

    6. Post comment

      Katherine 'Kathe' Ellis Baer says:

      what an unhappy person you must be ….

      1. Sandra Pope,
        Who died and made you the God, Judge and Jury of being able to see a picture of a person and being able to diagnose everything that’s actually wrong. My Goodness make Yourself a self stated Medical Degree because obviously Your calling is your ability to diagnose people by picture. Oh wait, to be a Doctor Your required by Oath to be a help to your fellow Man, Not decide Your the Greatest and degrade someone’s name,reputation and their Foundation because Your so good You can diagnose something without an actual examination, not to mention apparently you can just type out your little comment about something you clearly know absolutely nothing or at the least, VERY, VERY, VERY LITTLE ABOUT!! When all you could have researched before you downgraded everything this Man has tried to do. Why would you put such a negative spin on something that someone in the public eye is actually trying to help Children with a very serious condition, not only physically the special and specific ways they must eat and drink, the countless surgeries and the pain that must be involved in having these procedures done. BY THE WAY HE WASN’T EVEN TRYING TO GAIN ANY PUBLICITY FOR HIMSELF IN THIS ARTICLE JUST THE CAUSE AND THE FOUNDATION!!! CAN YOU SAY THE SAME, I THINK YOUR DOING THINGS OF THIS NATURE HOPING FOR YOUR GREAT 15 MINUTES OF FAME!!!
        I worked with a Man who at the time was the Dad of a very lovely beautiful seven year old Daughter who was gearing up for another surgery that she was going to hav’t to have on her pallet I believe, not sure could have been her lip. She’ already had several surgeries in her short life with more to come as she aged!! She was born with both and although beautiful you could tell from her photos or at least the lip. The Trauma these poor Children go through. I have a Dear, very Dear Friend who is in his 70s. He has always been so shy and really just staying close to his Family and a few friends that have had the privilege to actually be let into His Very Private world. He was born wit a cleft pallet or actually most of his pallet missing and if I look at Him I cannot tell anything was ever wrong. I’m not sure of His Families resources when He was younger but His was corrected by a removeable plate I believe but He has a slight lisp from the Birthdefect and in my Opinion really has robbed this world from knowing a Beautiful soul here on this Earth because He’s in his 70’s as I said but in all actuality scared for life from this condition of opening up and letting people see the wonderful being He really is!!!! Not to Mention His beautiful talent of playing the piano, by Ear and note, Yet I Think when I look, I see a great guy, when He sees himself I think He still sees a little boy whom I’m sure was teased by other Kids though He’s never mentioned that, but from your comment maybe felt a little bad about himself from reactions from truely uninformed adults yet well versed in sticking sad and disgracefully lll stated comments like your own. He was then and I’m sure, still is hurting painfully inside. Of course by Your diagnosis Ms. Pope, their wasn’t anything wrong!!!! Correct, Ms. Pope? Well no maybe You might have noticed His lip if you could see it from your self imposed throne you are sitting on!!!
        Then you have the emotional and emotional trama and garbage these poor Children endure by the hands of Children who really weren’t taught that only by the Grace of God Himself that they themselves were born completely healthy, or they were raised by Parents like Yourself that decided early in their life that they were going to be absolutely correct no matter what the situation , no matter whom they hurt in the process. As if these poor Children and some adults don’t have enough to deal with just trying to get through all that they have to look forward to so this world and some occupants of it like yourself that throw out hurtful things without any facts to back them. Have you ever looked at a Celebrity Started Foundation maybe against MS, Parkinson’s,Cancer and made those comments just because take Parkinson’s for instance, Michael J. Fox actually acted after His Foundation was created and His symptoms were noticeable, did you accuse Him of what you did Mr. Manning?
        I really shouldn’t have carried on so much but almost 18 1/2 ago, I became a the proud Father to a Beautiful over 9 lb. Baby Girl, who shortly after birth Doctors, God sent in my Opinion discovered that my #4 Baby Girl wasn’t as healthy as she looked! Hum glad you weren’t her Doctor.
        Over the next few days I found out my Daughter was born with a diagnosis of VSD AND PULMONARY STENOSIS. One lower Chamber of Her Heart Didn’t develops so she was tunic a high risk of have oxygenated and non oxygenated blood mix, actually they were but Her oxygen saturation was runing in the 70’s and this was the case till her first office visit. On that day She was Hospitalized for Her first corrective surgery the next day. Docters at this Hospital Hadn’t seen a diagnosis like Hers in 15 years. Thankfully through the years She endured many surgeries two of which were open Heart. Though, through most of Her life looks were and sill are very, very deceiving for to look at my Baby girl she looks very Healthy but she is actually not don’t take me wrong Her heart and other issues they found through the years were helped and suceessfully helped by medications and a lot of surgeries. Last year She was told She probably could never conceive or even if by slim chance she could she shouldn’t because she was endangering Her life and if She did give birth She would probably shorten Her life.
        When She finally got agreements on this diagnosis She had just Married the Young Man of Her dreams and you see all my Daughter has ever really had big dreams of every since She was small playing Barbies, was A Husband and Beautiful loving Babies She would call her own!
        You see Sandra Pope through Your eyes at my Daughters birth and now she looks just as healthy as her Sisters. BUT LOOKS CAN REALLY BE DECEIVING. So glad you weren’t on staff when She was born.

      2. I am unhappy. I have metastatic breast cancer. Does that make you feel better!!!!!
        Sent from my iPad

        1. Then, you of all, should be sympathetic and understanding. I feel bad for you but suppose I said how do I know this is true about you????? Whatever is wrong with you is no excuse to make the accusations and comments you made.

    7. What a jerk you are! Research before posting!

    8. I have to believe you posted this just to stir up a controversy. I don’t want to think you are just that stupid and/or negative. If you did mean it, then I feel sorry for you and I will pray for you.

    9. “Who’s business is Peyton’s medical information?” Well, probably no one’s unless it’s already out there – as it has been for years. This article just gives us further insight into a child that was born with great problems and rose above it to become a great man and the perhaps the best quarterback to ever play the game. It is inspirational in every sense of the word.

    10. Please show us your plethora of pictures of Peyton as a baby and youngster. Get real, you’ve seen what the family has allowed you to see through the media. Unless you are a friend of the family, your access is not any better than mine. As others have mentioned previously, cleft palette isn’t the same as cleft lip. Nothing like opening your mouth to remove all doubt.

    11. How rude & hurtful can one person be? Obviouslyy have no physical issues just mental ! You are very fortunate that don’t have physical problems. But someday you may eat those words you said:(. Don’t know how old you are but act like a child that is not getting attention or never did:(. You are obviously one of those that makes fun of people that have physical & mental problems! Hope you have no children! As things could happen to them or you or husband if one would marry such a angry, bitter person:(. Will pray for you:)

    12. Bitter Tom Brady fan, perhaps?


      1. “You look white , so it probably is not inbreeding that caused your brain to fail or to develope”. Your response is way worse than hers , shame on you .

    14. Seriously? What a dope you are.

    15. Are you always this vile and hateful?

    16. Hey fat face, STFU. You may have grandchildren one day who are less than perfect.

    17. Wow..even as a Patriots fan, i have to say you have alot of nerve making an accusation that this story may not be true… really? He has no need to make it up… and he has back ups I’m sure. I never doubted this story for one minute.

    18. My 4 month old has a cleft palate. Looking at her you would have absolutely no idea unless you looked at the roof of her mouth. Seeing a picture of him as a child means nothing when the deformity is internal, not external.

  8. Beautiful person and a big heart. God bless you.

  9. It’s why he’s my most favorite person in the world… <3

  10. Anyone from the great state of Mississippi is A-O.K. no matter what anyone says!

    1. Peyton is from Louisiana. He was born in New Orleans. His Dad, Archie, played for Ole Miss.

      1. Eli played for Ole Miss as well.

  11. Wow! He’s a winner regardless of a super bowl ring. His heart is bigger than his head.

  12. I hope those that bullied him and made fun of him are ashamed of themselves. To me he is the best QB to play in the NFL. He is a very caring and giving person. He will always be my favorite. Very humble and a class act for sure.

  13. How interesting to learn someone of the caliber of Peyton Manning shares the same type of birth defect as me, though I ended up with both lip and palate issues. I never knew until I read this article! What a class act he is, and I know the brutal treatment he got from people over it all too well. I had 12 surgeries to repair what they could, though the bone graft failed, twice. Lost my teeth due to all the corrective actions due to the enamel being born soft, and all braces and sickness that people with this deformity deal with. This article definitely made my respect for him to grow magnitudes more.

  14. My son was born with a cleft palate and lip he will be 9 next week and has been through a lot he had to be on feeding tubs for the first year because he was aspirating his milk through his airway he was in Riley Hospital for a week or more. He now has had several surgerys and about ready for another maybe this year. He gets bullied every day. Sometimes you can’t understand what he is trying to say. He still has that chance of loosing his hearing.

    1. I’ll never understand how children can be so cruel, what they learn at home or other kids? It makes no sense to me. I hope your little boy does okay with his surgery later this year.

    2. I’m SO SORRY Teresa . So terrible IT MUST BE. I still cry at times , and i will NEVER UNDERSTAND THE MENTALITY of people who act this way . I do know God will take care of them . I WILL BE PRAYING FOR YOUR SON . It can really cause problems psychologically later on . That’s for sure. Hopefully he will reverse the energy as Peyton has and as I did at one time. BLESSINGS to you both.

  15. Go Broncos!

  16. Thank you Peyton for giving to so many in need.

  17. You would never guess that about him today. He looks great. I know he’s generous with charities a
    nd especially causes close to his heart and you have to admire him for this.

  18. Peyton is the man, and after he wins that well deserved ring at super bowl 50, I hope to see him hang up his jersey but return to the field as a coach. Too much talent not to share with future players.

  19. Had no idea.

  20. Love this guy! <3 Glad he went to play with my 2nd favorite team in Denver. (I am a die hard Steelers fan.) He and his brother are just fabulous in my book!

  21. I am an avid Patriots/Brady fan… but I know true talent and a good person when I see them and I have liked Peyton for years and recognized his greatness as a QB. When the Colts screwed him, that did it for me.. I liked him even more because my heart broke for him. I wish him all the best and hope he secures a Super Bowl ring this time, as it is most likely his last chance. Good luck to you Peyton! Stay strong.

  22. Good for Peyton for turning a negative into a positive. I always wonder which jail or rehab facility the bulls ended up at.

  23. In case anyone needed to understand what a class act and dignified QB is like… This is it! Compare that the the other clowns that want it all to be about themselves, and you’ll understand the pity we have for those who just don’t understand what it means to be humble and still be a great sport.

  24. Thank you for sharing the history. My family and I admire the man very much. knowing he had these hardships makes me admire him and his family even more. No easy road to travel for this young man but he did it and he did it well.

  25. This is why my almost 3 yr.old grandson loves him. He even knows Peyton’s number.

  26. Peyton is a very talented football player. I like him for the respect he brings to the game, and his very hard work ethic! He is a great role model for children and adults! He comes from a wonderful family with these same values! He does so much for all the communities he has lived in! Never leaving any behind! There is so much that he does NO ONE EVER hears about! And he is fine with that! He is by far my most favorite player ever! Thank you Peyton and good luck tomorrow! We will enjoy your play as usual! Being from Denver we are lucky to have you be a Bronco! GO BRONCOS!

  27. my youngest son was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. at 3 months the corrected his lip and at 9.5 months his palate. He is now 5 and within the next 2-4 years he will have a bone graft to correct his upper gum line. He has been in preschool for two years and so far, no problems. I just pray when he is in the elementary school next year, he is not bullied. He is a strong willed and bullheaded child and I’m thinking I’ll be getting many phone calls from the principal for him taking care of the ones who try to bully him. If not him taking care of them, his older sister who will be in 2nd grade will be kicking some ass for him, cuz she does not let ANYONE push or bully him around when she’s nearby. LOL

  28. I was born with a cleft lip and palate and know exactly what Peyton Manning went through. Now I have one more reason to respect him, other than him keeping Tom Brady out of the Super Bowl! Congratulations, Number 18!

  29. Post comment

    Marty Ratliff Cornelius says:

    As does his brother Eli, both men grew up knowing how to give back to the communities they lived and work in. Eli supports I believe in in Mississippi and Louisiana. Info can be found on his Wikipedia page.

  30. Class tells.

  31. So happy to have him as an example for younger players coming up. He seems to be a very nice, generous, thoughtful, talented human being. We love you Mr. Manning!

  32. I wonder what the bullies have thought the past 20+ years. We will have to share the story with our granddaughter because she was born with a cleft lip and palate and getting ready to have her bone taken from her hip and put in the roof of her mouth and in her gums. One of the granddaughters of the Duck Dynasty’s Phil and Kay Robertson’s has the same thing and has went through several surgeries. It is great that the well known people are telling their stories to let the other people that they can get through it.

  33. I worked on campus at UT during Peyton’s college career and have followed him since. He is the reason my husband developed an interest in football and would join me in front of the TV for the games. I never knew of his struggles as a child. I love the humble attitude of Peyton and his family.

  34. My Daughter Jessica was also born with a cleft palate . She had to be tube fed for 3 yrs Jessica was 7 yrs old before they closed her palate . Jessica also has intellectual disability and cerebral palsy ! Jessica is now 35 yrs young ! Jessica has scoliosis with a rod wrapped around her spine she was 10 before this was fixed Jessica was at the point of death before doctor’s ever done anything for her. I am glad you became a famous quarter back ! Jessica is my Miracle my “Angel” here on earth !

  35. I sure wont miss hearing his name when it is football time people act like he is the only good QB to ever play I wont miss him

  36. My 16 year old son is a big fan of Peyton Manning, my son was born with a cleft palate, had surgery at 10 months old to repair, then has had speech classes most of his life, he then at the age 8 had another surgery to repair a hole in his heart, he has been through a lot over his years of growing up, now he needs braces to fix his teeth that didn’t come in correct due to the cleft palate, insurance doesn’t cover because its cosmetic, I believe a child born with a cleft palate/lip should get the help they need to fix the issues that they have to face during there life, braces are not cheap and for a parent that doesn’t get help from the other parent is sometimes difficult to fulfill your kids dream of having a perfect mouth of teeth, Peyton Manning is a good person to be helping others out and is a great football player!

  37. He is NOT an “awesome dude” … It’s disgusting that he can claim to have been “bullied” but is involved in the horrendous statements about Ann Coulter at Comedy Central roast … (I’m no fan of Coulter but for Manning to call HER a horse face??)

  38. God Bless Him for this important work!

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