Buckeyes Visit White House
COLUMBUS -– The members of the Ohio State football team have been in the presence of some very impressive audiences of late, but nothing like what the team experienced today: meeting the President of the United States during a three-hour visit to the White House. President Barack Obama welcomed Coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State President Michael V. Drake, Director of Athletics Gene Smith and members of the 2014 College Football Playoff national champion Buckeye team to the White House for a formal celebration of the team’s accomplishments.
“O-H,” The President said to open a lively and fun ceremony to honor the team in the East Room of the White House. “And give it up to the 2014 college football national champions!”
The pro-Ohio State crowd responded in kind, and that was only the beginning of a neat afternoon for the players and those attending.
The President talked about All-American Joey Bosa leading the Big Ten in sacks, and then he exchanged shrugs with him saying “I use that move sometimes.”
Referring to Cardale Jones, he said “anyone with a nickname like 12 Gauge has to be taken seriously.”
He thanked Ezekiel Elliott for tucking in his shirt and Elliott said The President “needed to get the rule changed.”
Commenting on the nearly 100,000 fans who came out to watch Ohio State’s spring game on Saturday, The President said “…I think it’s fair to say your fans are a little crazy.”
And after ending the ceremony and walking off the risers, he notice Archie Griffin in the audience and brought him on stage for another round of photos that included one with President Obama, President Drake, Gene Smith, Griffin and former Buckeye great and NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter.
The President was very complimentary toward the team’s community service efforts, telling his audience the Buckeyes perform as many as 1,000 man-hours of community service hours each year, and he mentioned the Mid-Ohio Food Bank by name. He was also complimentary of Coach Meyer winning his third national championship, and to Evan Spencer, for earning Team MVP honors for all of the little things he did to help the team.
Spencer was thrilled.
“It meant the world,” Spencer said. “All of us worked so hard for this during the season, and for him to kind of point me out and show that I did do really well and I did work my butt off, especially coming from the President of the United States, it felt really good.”
Seniors Curtis Grant and Doran Grant were selected to present the President with two gifts: a game ball honoring the win over Oregon and a No. 44 jersey with “Obama” on the back.
Before the ceremony, the President had a private meeting with the team in the State Dining Room after the delegation of Buckeyes had spent about 60 minutes touring the various rooms of the White House. Some on the tour noted the fact that Coach Meyer probably knew his way around the residence, as this was his third such visit after White House celebrations in 2007 and 2009 to recognize his Florida Gators national champions.
The trip to the White House will all but cap the public honors for the Buckeyes, and it certainly was the last opportunity for all the members of the team to travel together. And what a way to end a four-month run since the Oregon win that had the team experiencing bigger and better moments with each outing.
In late January, more than 45,000 fans celebrated the national championship with the team at Ohio Stadium on a cold day with the Big Ten Network providing national television coverage of the one-hour event.
In February, team members met with Ohio Governor John Kasich at the Ohio State House before being honored on both the Ohio Senate and Ohio House of Representatives floors.
Also in February, team members were recognized at a men’s basketball game at Value City Arena and received a thunderous round of applause from the nearly 18,000 attending.
The team was the special guest at the Cincinnati Reds’ 2015 Opening Night baseball game at Great American Ball Park vs. Pittsburgh.
And this past Saturday, an all-time record crowd for a college football spring game – 99,391 fans – came out to watch the team’s final practice of the spring and to celebrate and cheer the team on a lovely, 73-degree day.
Activities today were certainly less boisterous for the most part. The team started its day at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, where players figuratively “passed through” the symbolic stone and granite figures that represent Dr. King’s inspiration in the line of his “I Have a Dream” speech: “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
Dr. Leonard L. Haynes, who has his Ph.D from The Ohio State University and is in its Education and Human Ecology Hall of Fame, spoke to the team at the King Memorial. He is a senior director of institutional services at the U.S. Department of Education.
After a break for a wonderful brunch at the law offices of Jones Day, which started in Cleveland and now has 40 offices worldwide, the team moved on to the White House for the tour and the ceremony to honor the national champions.
Ohio’s Congressional Delegation then hosted the Buckeyes at the U.S. Capitol Building. U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman joined U.S. Representatives Pat Tiberi and Joyce Beatty for talks to the team after aides provided the Buckeyes with a tour of the Capitol Building.
Tiberi said this was the first time a national champion team had ever been invited onto the floor of the House of Representatives, saying it helped that Speaker of the House John Boehner is from Ohio.
Afterward, a group photo was taken on the steps of the Capitol Building, and then the Buckeyes loaded back onto the busses for a charter flight back home to Ohio and the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The team arrived at the Woody about 9:30 p.m.