Football & Presidents- From Teddy To Donald
The connection between U.S. Presidents and football goes back to the early years of the 20th Century.
In 1904, the ruffian and violent sport of the day saw 18 deaths, spurring calls for a ban on the game. It was Teddy Roosevelt who intervened to save football by encouraging safer rules and helping to create what would become the NCAA.
Dwight Eisenhower was the first college footballer to reach the White House, playing at West Point and even getting injured tackling the legendary Jim Thorpe during a match in 1912.
John Kennedy, whose brothers Robert and Edward were both Harvard football lettermen, played briefly though he didn't get past JV due to ailments.
Richard Nixon joined his college squad but showed more enthusiasm on the bench than action on the field. In later years, "Tricky Dick" would take his passion for the game into his political career, rubbing elbows with renowned Ohio State football coach Woodey Hayes who helped him carry Ohio in his failed 1960 presidential bid.
By the time Nixon settled into the executive office, football surpassed baseball as America's most popular sport and the President was eager to exploit its popularity.
Stories abound how in 1971 Nixon called Redskins coach and friend George Allen with a play suggestion for a post season game. The play failed, the Redskins lost, and so did Nixon's strategy of promoting himself as a football savant.
The best footballer who went on to occupy the nation's highest office was Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford. The accidental 38th President played at the University of Michigan and was named MVP his senior year.
After graduating, the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers came calling but instead Ford decided to coach at Yale in hopes of attending its law school.
The man who carried football from his college days into the big screen was Ronald Reagan. The two-term President played at Eureka College and years later starred as Notre Dame's George Gipp in the 1940 film "Knute Rockne, All American".
Reagan's "Gipper" nickname stuck with him well into his political life.
And the figure whose association with football was less on the field and more in the board room is not surprisingly, President-elect Donald Trump. The Manhattan real estate investor ventured into the USFL in 1984 by buying the New Jersey Generals.
His push to take the fledgling USFL head-to-head against the established NFL contributed to the league's demise, ending in the courts with lawyers instead of in the bank with cash.
FOOTBALL April 26, 2008- Jake Long of the University of Michigan is first pick by the Miami Dolphins at the NFL draft. He signs a 5-year, $58 million contract, making him the highest paid offensive lineman in the league’s history. Long would stay with the Dolphins through 2012 and later join the Rams, Falcons and Vikings before retiring in 2017.
NASCAR April 26, 1998- Bobby Labonte wins the DieHard 500 as the only driver for the Joe Gibbs Racing team. It was the 2nd season victory for the Texas native who also took 1st place at the Primestar 500. At season start, Labonte had finished 2nd to Dale Earnhardt at the Daytona 500, but landed 6th in final points standings at year-end.
GOLF April 24, 1988- Rosie Jones wins the LPGA USX Golf Classic in a playoff against Kathy Postlewait. It was the second of what would be 13 total victories at the LPGA. The California native attended Ohio State University and turned professional in 1982. Though never clinching a Major, she placed 2nd four times in her career.
TENNIS April 29, 1978- Tennis twin prodigies Mike and Bob Bryan are born in Camarillo, California. The duo won 16 Grand Slam Doubles championships between 2003-2014 and were named ATP team of the decade. They also took gold in Doubles Tennis at the 2012 Olympics. Both played at Stanford University, winning back-to-back NCAA titles.