Today is President’s Day, causing me to remember a special occasion for the Indianapolis Colts.
After winning Super Bowl XLI in 2007, the team was invited to the traditional White House visit made by championship teams.
There, the team would be hosted by President George W. Bush.
The date was April 23 and if President Bush ever had a slow day, this may have been one of them. One week earlier, his day had been marred by the terrible shootings at Virginia Tech.
It was a beautiful day in the nation’s capital and after visiting soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, our entourage hit the White House about 1:00 p.m.
The players, coaches and staff toured the White House prior to the ceremony on the South Lawn.
It was a great time seeing the White House in a way many people never will have the chance to see it. It was fun watching the reaction of our guys. None acted like a caddy at Bushwood.
Joseph Addai chided Peyton Manning that he had been there before. Addai had been part of the LSU football contingent that visited after winning the 2003 national championship. Manning kept asking Joe to knock it off since it was his first time visiting on such an occasion. I think Joe enjoyed applying the needle.
The team assembled on the South Lawn and waited for President Bush to arrive for the ceremony. We were prepared for his arrival and waited to present him with a jersey and a specially-made wooden Stetson.
As many presidents are, Mr. Bush was pleasant, witty and a warm host. When the ceremony was done, I was to take Tony Dungy to do an on-line chat as well as a group of players to meet the media outside the West Wing. The rest of the travel party was to go back to our buses.
This is when a special day became even more so.
The group going to meet the media included Dungy, Bill Polian, Peyton Manning, Gary Brackett, Adam Vinatieri, Dwight Freeney and Jeff Saturday. (That Bill chose to meet the media was amusing to me.)
After taking a few moments to assemble the bunch, we were moving past the Rose Garden and were ready to enter a door when someone to our left whistled like a coach and shouted, “Hey, where are you boys going?”
Stopping, we saw President Bush standing with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and he was holding a door open.
He motioned for us to join him, and we passed through the door and into the Oval Office.
Having home turf advantage to the extreme, President Bush spent 25 minutes telling us stories about the room and moments related to him and other presidents.
He talked about the artwork, how each president chooses the color scheme, and he spent time explaining decorations that adorned his office.
He spoke about his desk which went back through many presidencies.
At one point, I glanced at my watch. It was 3:45 p.m. I wondered what I would be doing the next day at this very time since where I was standing at the moment likely was going to be a bit more special.
A White House photographer captured the action, and Florida Governor Jeb Bush joined the group.
To this day, I can recall President Bush’s comments almost word-for-word. It was that compelling.
President Bush shook our hands as the occasion adjourned. It was off to the on-line chat and the assembled reporters. Five buses of people had to wonder where we were.
President Bush was not the first to host a sports team. He is not the last as well, and it is a special moment when the leader of the free world can make time for small ceremonies.
Thank you again, sir, and here’s hoping the Colts get that moment again. If so, we can take Joe Addai. He knows the layout quite well.
By the way, on Tuesday, April 24 at 3:45 p.m., I was in my office. I volunteered to write a free agent biography for our media guide. I waited until that very time to do it, so I could be truthful whenever I relayed the anecdote. I specifically chose Craphonso Thorpe, a nice kid (who made the team) but one whose first name I thought added to the story.
Happy President’s Day.
Tags: Adam Vinatieri, Bill Polian, Dwight Freeney, Gary Brackett, indianapolis colts, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai, Peyton Manning, President George W. Bush, Tony Dungy
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