Peyton Manning 'just like George Clooney,' commercial co-star says





If you’re wondering whether those are actual grocery coupons Peyton Manning is fumbling through in one of his most recent DirecTV commercials, they are.

Peyton Manning, left, tries to find a coupon for an item he's buying in a DirecTV commercial. The grocery clerk, right, is Nashville native and Trevecca graduate James Austin Johnson.

Peyton Manning, left, tries to find a coupon for an item he’s buying in a DirecTV commercial. The grocery clerk, right, is Nashville native and Trevecca graduate James Austin Johnson.

James Austin Johnson confirmed it. He knows because he spent time during the shoot wadding up the coupons with Manning, who is recently retired.

“They wanted it to look authentic when Peyton realizes he has a coupon for one of his items so we were crumpling them up all day to make it look real when he started looking through them, just like my mom would do in the store,” Johnson said.

Johnson has experience dealing with big-name celebs and taking coupons for orders. And even though he’s not a huge NFL fan, realized how big of a deal it was to be working with the former University of Tennessee quarterback.

Johnson, a Nashville native, used to work at Chick-fil-A in Franklin, “where I would wait on a lot of country music stars. They didn’t usually have coupons, but the other customers did.”

He graduated from Davidson Academy in 2007 and Trevecca in 2011.

Johnson’s father Michael is the assistant to the president at Trevecca and the school’s former golf coach.

James Austin Johnson, a Davidson Academy and Trevecca graduate, spent time off camera getting to know Peyton Manning during their DirecTV commercial shoot.

James Austin Johnson, a Davidson Academy and Trevecca graduate, spent time off camera getting to know Peyton Manning during their DirecTV commercial shoot.

Johnson wasn’t into athletics at Davidson Academy like his brothers Chad, who played basketball, and Brian, who played baseball.

So Johnson, who now lives in Los Angeles where he is a stand-up comedian, was just as impressed by Manning’s acting skills as he was his talents on the field.

“Peyton’s been around the block a few times with these silly commercials so I was pleased to see how professional he was,” Johnson said. “He could tweak his performance just the slightest bit, just like George Clooney, and I thought that was pretty cool.”

Johnson said he felt good about getting hired for the commercial because he fit the bill for what the producers wanted.

“I just happened to have the right look — skinny and nerdy — for the grocery store clerk they wanted,” he said. “They were looking for a wiry red-headed man.”

Johnson was told not to be starstruck and to act unimpressed by his customer, who just happened to be a 14-time Pro Bowl selection, five-time NFL MVP and two-time Super Bowl winner.

“I just tried to be as muted as possible,” Johnson said. “They wanted it to feel really real and like I was just a normal person who was totally uninterested in what this famous celebrity had to say.”

It’s Peyton on Sunday Mornings — Groceries & NFL SUNDAY TICKET

The script called for Johnson to say just one word — cool — back to Manning. Johnson did a masterful job delivering, even if several takes were needed..

Johnson said he enjoyed getting to know Manning during the shoot, which took about 10 hours.

“He was very genial; we had a little bit of a Tennessee connection,” Johnson said. “We talked about who we knew who went to UT and stuff like that. It turned out that our parents know each other from somewhere way back. He was a fun guy.”

Johnson didn’t get to spend as much face time with R&B legend Lionel Richie, who is also featured in each of the three DirecTV commercials sitting at the piano playing a spoof of “Easy,” a hit song he wrote in 1977 as a member of the Commodores. Richie turned the lyric “Easy like Sunday morning” into “It’s Peyton on Sunday mornings.”

“Lionel Richie and I exchanged finger guns and eyebrows a couple of times across the room, so I would say I had mostly successful interactions with these celebrities,” Johnson said.

Carolyn Peck’s husband joins Hillsboro staff

Carolyn Peck returned to Nashville in May when the former Commodores basketball star and ESPN analyst was hired as new coach Stephanie White’s assistant at Vanderbilt.

Peck’s husband Jim O’Brien also got a local job recently. He was hired as an assistant football coach at Hillsboro.

O’Brien replaced offensive line coach John Ordung, who spent seven years at Hillsboro.

Gumbel to speak at MTSU fundraiser



CBS sportscaster Greg Gumbel will be the guest speaker at Middle Tennessee State’s Blue Raider Athletic Association annual Donor Celebration Dinner next Friday.

The dinner will be at Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro.

Along with his work on CBS, Gumbel is host of “Inside the NFL” on Showtime and NFL Network. The New Orleans native has been with CBS since 1988.

For tickets or more information visit

Betts was player of the month

Former Overton star Mookie Betts, now with the Boston Red Sox, was named the American League Player of the Month for July.

The right fielder hit .368 with five home runs and 15 RBIs. He had five stolen bases during the month.

It was the first time Betts has won the award.

Baseball gallery opens Sunday at library

Willie Mays

Willie Mays

A free exhibit featuring artist Mike Schact’s portraits of some of baseball’s greatest players opens Sunday at the Nashville Public Library.

Some of Schat’s work, created in the 1980s and ’90s, includes Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

Several of the pieces are featured at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

There will be a panel discussion with Major League baseball official historian John Thorn and “Baseball Weekly” founding editor Gene Policinski at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the library’s auditorium on the first floor.

The exhibit will be in the Courtyard Gallery on the second floor through Dec. 31.

Bryce Drew to speak at FCA banquet

New Vanderbilt men’s basketball coach Bryce Drew will be the guest speaker at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Fall Fundraising Banquet.

The banquet will be at Music City Center on Oct. 24, three weeks before the Commodores’ season tips off.

For more information call 615-889-8808 or visit

Wrigley returns to local airwaves

Remember Steve Wrigley, longtime sportscaster for WSMV-4?

He’s back in Nashville after working for the Fox/CBS affiliate in Jacksonville, Fla., since 2009.

Wrigley was hired last December to work on the assignment desk at WTVF-5.

On Monday and Tuesday, Wrigley will be back on the air when he fills in for sports anchor Steve Layman, who is on vacation.

Ex-Mt. Juliet great writes children’s book

Former Mt. Juliet basketball star Susie Gardner, who went on to play at Georgia and then coach at Austin Peay, Arkansas and is now at Mercer, has written a children’s book — “1, 2, 3 TEAM!”

It’s about a young girl, Zoey, who initially believes she can win games by herself before learning how valuable her teammates can be.

It’s available at

Overton reunion set for Sept. 9

This season will mark 35 years since Overton won the Class AAA football state championship with a 14-0 record under coach Nick Coutras.

It was the last time a Metro school won the state championship in the highest classification.

The school will honor the players and coaches from that team on Sept. 9 by providing dinner and introducing them at halftime of the Bobcats home game against Lipscomb Academy.

Coutras’ son Chris, who was a quarterback and defensive back on the state championship team, is in charge of rounding up the players and coaches and says he expects a large turnout.



TSU’s Ogundeko makes national watch list

Tennessee State junior defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko, who transferred from Clemson after the 2014 season, made the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year Watch List.

Ogundeko, who was named the Preseason Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of Year in a media poll, made 52 tackles last season for the Tigers. That included 10 tackles for loss. He also had five sacks.

‘Prep Football Talk’ kicks off next Saturday

The fifth season of “Prep Football Talk” and the third season of “One on One with Greg Pogue” is taking its Saturday morning two-hour broadcast block on the road.

Starting next Saturday on WNSR 560-AM/95.9-FM both shows will broadcast in front of a live audience from Bongo Java at Omni Nashville Hotel.

“Prep Football Talk” airs from 8-9 a.m. each Saturday through November featuring Pogue and co-hosts Craig Ladd and Bubba Spears.

Spears was a longtime Metro football and baseball high school coach. He is now the football coach at DuPont Tyler Middle School.

“One on One with Greg Pogue” follows from 9-10 a.m..

Ochsenreiter on a roll



Brock Ochsenreiter, The Tennessean’s 2015 Golfer of the Year, was co-medalist at the U.S. Amateur Qualifier in Rocky Mount, N.C., and then finished first in the Tennessee State Amateur qualifier at Bluegrass Country Club in Hendersonville over the last two weeks.

Ochsenreiter, an Ensworth graduate and Indiana signee, shot 8-under par over 36 holes in the U.S. Amateur Qualifier and then lost in the playoff on the second hole.

In the Tennessee State Amateur qualifier he shot a 3-under par 69. The Tennessee State Amateur is Tuesday-Friday at Blackthorn Club in Jonesborough.

Snell wins Tennessee Assistant Pro crown

Kevin Snell of Tennessee Golf Trail at Henry Horton won the Tennessee Assistant PGA Professional Championship at The Governors Club in Brentwood last Monday and Tuesday. He qualified for the Assistant PGA Professional Championship, Oct, 27-30 in St. Lucie, Fla.

Snell shot a 7-under-par (66-71—137) and beat McCabe assistant pro John Bevell (72-67—139) by two strokes. Snell earned $2,500 and Bevell earned $1,500.

If you have an item for Midstate Chatter contact Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.


The top 5 local sporting events television ratings for July 25-31.
1. PGA: PGA Championship (final round), 4.5 rating
2. PGA: PGA Championship (third round), 2.7 rating
3. NASCAR: Pocono 400, 1.9 rating
4. LPGA: British Open (final round), 1.3 rating
4. PGA: PGA Championship (second round), 1.3 rating 
Each rating point is equal to 9,902 Nashville homes.
Source: Mark Binda, WTVF-5 program & research director


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