As naturally as baseball and apple pie, so does football go with country music. Over the years, the game and the players have inspired both the lyrics of country songs and the imaginations of country artists. At the same time, the music speaks to many players of the game in the same way it does to other fans.
From high school all-stars to pro athletes, the crossover between the gridiron and Music Row has been heavily trafficked over the years. As Super Bowl Sunday approaches, here are 10 examples of how football and country music collide.
An Awesome Anthem
Carrie Underwood nearly brought the house down at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Fla., when she took the microphone to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XLIV in 2010. As her powerful voice soared above the stadium, TV cameras showed players, coaches and fans alike visibly moved by her rendition of the National Anthem. Faith Hill, Garth Brooks and the Dixie Chicks have also taken their turn with the Anthem at the nation's most-watched sporting event.
From Field to Stage
Several country artists played football as kids, and a few even envisioned careers in the pros. Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney and Keith Anderson all had hopes of a career on the gridiron in junior high and high school. Back in the '80s, Toby Keith actually played semi-pro in the USFL league. And Willie Nelson came close to a professional career, but he blew one important tryout because he was up all night playing music.
A Passed-Over Superstar
Before Sam Hunt was a country superstar, he was a college football star on his way to the pros. The Georgia native quarterbacked his way into high school recordbooks before he went on the Middle Tennessee State University and then the University of Alabama: Birmingham, where he played from 2005-2007, before trying out for the Kansas City Chiefs that year. Lucky for his fans, he didn't make the pro cut and launched his music career the following year.
A New Gridiron
A former offensive lineman for the New Orleans Saints, Kyle Turley left football a few years ago and turned to his new love: country music. A self-avowed singer-songwriter, Turley released his debut album, Anger Management, in 2010, on Gridiron Records, the aptly-titled indie record label he founded. That same year, he toured with Hank Williams III. Turley is currently active in raising awareness about the long-term effects of sports-related head injuries and cannabis legalization.
Living in Nashville sparked plenty of creativity in former Tennessee Titans quarterback Kerry Collins. He opened his own music publishing company, Blue Q Music, and has written with some of Music City's most celebrated tunesmiths, including Ed Hill and Jamey Johnson.
"I'm a huge country music fan, so it's a great opportunity to jump into something I love," Collins told The Boot years ago. In 2016, he told a reporter for the Carolina Panthers, "I’m not as heavy into it as I once was, but I still do it.”
Terry Bradshaw is mainly known as a football analyst for Fox, and also as a Pro Football Hall of Famer, but does it surprise you to know that he also had a Top 20 hit on the country charts? The former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback recorded six country and gospel albums in the 1970s. His cover of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" landed in the Top 20 in 1976, and his songs "The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me" and "Until You" were also country radio hits.
Tim McGraw has found a way to combine his loves of football and acting by taking on roles in films where football is a central theme. His first major role was in 2004's Friday Night Lights, a story about a small-town high school football team. In 2009, he co-starred with Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, the real-life story of Baltimore Ravens tackle Michael Oher. McGraw is a faithful high school football fan and would help out at games ... unless Faith Hill gave him a penalty time out; for a time, McGraw also held part ownership of Nashville's former arena football team, the Nashville Kats.
Double Hall of Famer
Mike Reid wore No. 74 for the Cincinnati Bengals in the early 1970s and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. When he turned his talents to music in the early '80s, he wrote more than a dozen chart-toppers, including Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me;" he also recorded his own hits and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2005.
Are You Ready for Some Football?
When football fans sit down to watch their favorite weekly games, they psych up with some turbo-charged country music. Faith Hill sang "Waiting All Day for Sunday Night" for numerous years, until handing off the baton to Carrie Underwood in 2013. Meanwhile, Hank Williams Jr. spent more than two decades asking the nation on Monday nights, "Are you ready for some football?" followed by a pigskin version of his classic "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" -- that is, until he and ESPN threw penalty flags at one another in 2011. Williams Jr. was reinstated in 2017, much to the delight of his fans.
No country music artist has intertwined their common love for music and football in the way that Kenny Chesney has. A former high school football player himself, Chesney once practiced with the New Orleans Saints as a one-day free agent. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning shows up every once in a while to sing with the country star at his concerts. And Chesney turned his No. 1 single "The Boys of Fall" into a football documentary; he also produced another football film for ESPN.
This story was originally written by Shannon Wayne-Turner, and revised by Liv Stecker.