Football Friday: Presidents and the Pigskin

Today’s post comes from Gregory Marose, an intern in the National Archives Office of Strategy and Communications.

New York Giants football player Harry Carson dumping Gatorade (popcorn) on President Reagan with Nancy Reagan watching at the White House Diplomatic entrance, 2/13/87, C39093-5, Reagan Presidential Library via

With Super Bowl Sunday just two days away, we’ve decided to call an audible and make today’s “Facial Hair Friday” into a “Football Friday.”

When the New England Patriots and New York Giants collide in this year’s Super Bowl, the two teams will be competing for more than just a National Football League championship. The winner will also receive a trip to the White House, a place that many gridiron greats have called home.

Football has a rich history at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

President Eisenhower was a standout halfback at West Point. Similarly, President Ford was a star at the University of Michigan, ultimately earning contract offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. As for President Reagan, he earned the nickname “the Gipper” after staring as Notre Dame’s George Gipp in the 1940 film Knute Rockne, All American.

Several Presidents have also remained loyal fans even after their playing days.

Gerald R. Ford, Jr., centers a football during practice at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 1933. (Ford Presidential Library)

President Kennedy, who went out for the team at Harvard, once called legendary coach Vince Lombardi to ask if he would “come back to Army and coach again.” President Nixon, who played for Whittier College, was known for sending diagrammed plays to the Washington Redskins coaching staff during his Presidency.

Reagan had popcorn (instead of Gatorade) dumped on him by the triumphant Giants during their visit to the White House in 1987. And most recently, President George H. W. Bush took part in the coin toss prior to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans.

So on Sunday when you finish off the chips and dip, the game is over, and you still want more football, don’t forget that we’ve got some at the National Archives. Check out these records on President Ford’s playing career at the University of Michigan as well as legal records on “dirty play” from the Eagles!

Photograph of President Truman tossing a coin in the air before the annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, as the captains of the Army and Navy teams watch, 12/02/1950, ARC 200250

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