QB Manning’s cleft palate: wonders on & off the field.


Cleft palate as an impetus to greatness.

Struggles due to a cleft palate may be the key to understanding QB Peyton Manning’s wonders off the football field . . . and maybe even on the field. Manning faces a titanic battle next Sunday against QB Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers in the 50th Super Bowl in San Francisco. 

Peyton Manning out of uniform smiling.

Manning, Number One, esp for cleft palate kids.

Manning’s amazing football accomplishments might stem from a drive to compensate for his birth defect and the consequent bullying he experienced when young.

Football Facts about Manning.

Let’s look at some little known facts about Manning’s early football career.

High School Years:

Growing up in New Orleans, Peyton attended Isidore Newman High School and led his team to a 34-5 record during his three seasons as a starter.  He passed for 7207 yards, completing 59.4% of his passes with 92 touchdowns. After his senior season, Peyton was named Gatorade Circle of Champions National Player of the Year and was the number one recruited quarterback in the nation.

College Years:

Proud to be a Tennessee Volunteer, Peyton collected numerous honors during his tenure at UT.  He became the school’s all-time leading passer with 11,201 yards, 863 completions, and 89 touchdowns. 

NFL years:

See my last blog for his pro stats.

Cleft palate Facts about Manning.

During his 17 years as QB for the Indianapolis Colts—before moving to Denver—Manning reached out to the St. Vincent Hospital of Indiana and helped turn it into a destination hospital for kids with cleft lip, palate and other orofacial disorders.  The Pediatric Craniofacial Center reflects his passion to help others born with birth defects. The Center provides diagnosis and treatment for more than 60 disorders or deformities in which cosmetic and functional improvement would benefit the patient. The Pediatric Craniofacial Center is comprised of a 31-member team, with more than 20 years average experience, representing some 17 specialties.  

Here’s an article by Shandy Marso for Carolina Pediatric Therapy that explains the link between Manning’s childhood and his charity work.

“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.

Supporting Cleft Palate Care.

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.

The PeyBack Foundation 

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.”



To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.

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