The East Room of the White House was packed Monday as President Obama hosted and honored the 2014 National Champion Football Buckeyes, the first team to win the first-ever playoff format. Space was precious in the East Room of the White House, the largest room in the executive mansion, as hundreds spoke fluent Buckeye and were excellent spellers, repeating O-H-I-O over and over.
President Obama recognized Ohio’s senior senator Sherrod Brown and Rep. Joyce Beatty, who worked on minority outreach at OSU following her time as Minority Leader in the Ohio House, and now represents the OSU community in Congress. With OSU President Michael Drake, Athletic Director Gene Smith and Coach Urban Meyer on his flanks, President Obama teased Meyer, saying this eighth National Championship for the school was Coach Meyer’s third time as national champion but with two teams. “Pretty impressive. I’ve only done it twice. And for the same team both times.” He was referring, of course, to his consecutive majority elections for president in 2008 and 2012, which included winning Ohio twice.
Ohio State’s path to the title was strewn with two injured quarterbacks, both of whom were all-star players. Obama recalled that the team was at one time ranked as low as 23rd in the nation. But destiny had plans for the Buckeyes, so when the team’s third-string quarterback was called on to take over, his performances in the final three games of the season were destiny in action. Cardale Jones is not your average third-string quarterback, the president said, as Jones looked down from the top riser. “Anybody with a nickname like ‘Twelve-Gauge’ has to be taken seriously,” Obama said to laughter.
The president singled out Joey Bosa—Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, wide receiver, Evan Spencer, who was named team MVP in 2014 and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Riffing with Elliot, Obama thanked him for tucking in his shirt today. Elliot responded, asking the Commander-in-Chief to change the NCAA rule on midriffs. “Did you see that?” Obama said with a big grin on his face. “Look, I already got the playoff, all right? I’ve got other stuff to do now.”
Your Fans Are A Little Crazy
But levity bowed to the point of the event: true character and true resilience. “As I said to them when I had a chance to shake the hands of all the players, everybody is going to go through ups and downs in life, and how folks handle it, how the quarterbacks on this team supported each other, that’s what every organization wants to see — is people stepping up for each other,” President Obama said. He explained that the Buckeyes contribute 1,000 hours of community service and charitable efforts in Central Ohio each year by visiting young patients in hospitals, helping second graders improve their reading, building playgrounds, supporting the Special Olympics and stocking shelves for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
This demonstrated love between the team and the community is mutual, and shows, even for a practice game. “I will say when you get 100,000 fans to show up to a practice…I think it’s fair to say that your fans are a little crazy…but obviously it’s working for them and it’s working for this extraordinary team.”