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(Jason Reed/Reuters)

Who were the most athletic Presidents?

Presidents
(Jason Reed/Reuters)

Who were the most athletic Presidents?

Today is Presidents’ Day and of the 46 U.S. Presidents, there have been some rather good athletes. It is not overly surprising that some of the country’s leaders grew up as athletes and the sporting background can be seen throughout the White House. In the White House, there have been many different playing surfaces added such as a bowling alley, pools, and a basketball court amongst others. So in honor of today’s holiday here are some of the most athletic Presidents.

Gerald Ford

Possibly the best Presidential athlete, Gerald Ford played college football at the University of Michigan from 1932-34. Ford became the 38th President of the U.S. in 1974 and served one term until 1977. Before entering the Oval Office Ford played as a center for the Michigan football team that won back-to-back National Championships while going undefeated in 1932 and 1933. In 1934, Ford was named the Michigan MVP winner and added to the 1935 College All-star game. After college, Ford had the chance to play in the NFL for either the Detroit Lions or Green Bay Packers, but turned down contract offers from both teams and instead went to Yale for law school. Following his tenure as President Ford’s number 48 was retired by Michigan.

It is ironic that Ford was possibly the best athlete amongst the Presidents considering he was renowned for being very clumsy. Football was not the only sport this U.S. President enjoyed as he was an avid swimmer and had an outdoor pool installed at the White House while in office. 

Barack Obama

As a high schooler in Hawaii Barack Obama became passionate about basketball. At Punahou High School Obama played on the varsity basketball team and was part of the Hawaii state championship-winning team in 1979. After that Obama turned his attention toward politics, eventually becoming the 44th President. While in office Obama’s basketball skills picked back up as he made sure to add basketball hoops to the already standing tennis court so that he could play. There were numerous pickup games that took place on this court between Obama and other former collegiate players turned political figures.

Richard Nixon

37th President Richard Nixon was an avid player of a very niche sport, bowling. While in office Nixon added a bowling lane to the White House basement in 1969 so that he and his wife, Pat, could play whenever they wanted to. While being more famous for his bowling game when he was in college at Whittier College he played basketball and was on the football team but rode the bench.

Teddy Roosevelt

Suffering from poor health and serious asthma as a kid it is somewhat surprising that Teddy Roosevelt became as good of an athlete as he did. The eventual 26th President became determined to have a strong body and turned to boxing along with other sports to do just that. Roosevelt started to really pursue boxing while he was studying at Harvard and would participate in tournaments. In one intramural tournament, he even finished runner-up. Boxing was not the only sport he played at Harvard as he also partook in rowing. However, boxing was his passion and followed him to the White House where on occasion Roosevelt would have sparring fights against an assortment of opponents. While in office Roosevelt continued to promote physically strengthening the men in America through boxing as well as jiu-jitsu which he turned to after becoming unable to box.

Dwight Eisenhower

Before becoming the President who led the Allies in defeating Adolf Hitler and the Axis, Dwight Eisenhower was a starting football player at Army for one season during his time in college. He played halfback and linebacker for Army during the 1912 season. One of the biggest games for Eisenhower that season came against the Carlisle Indians who were led by one of the greatest running backs ever in Jim Thorpe. At the time Thorpe had come off winning two gold medals at the 1912 Summer Olympics in the pentathlon and decathlon. Eisenhower’s next game was also his final as he suffered an injury that ended his football career. He stayed in football after graduating and became a coach for St Louis College. The future 34th President became an avid golfer after being injured and while in office added a putting green to the White House lawn.

George W. Bush

George W. Bush played baseball at Yale just like his father George H.W. Bush. The only difference was that George W. Bush only managed to make the freshman team as a relief pitcher while his father was a key part in Yale making the College World Series twice. While at Yale he also played rugby union and was a starter for the team. The younger Bush stayed in baseball for a long time and became a co-owner of the Texas Rangers in 1989. Another sport George W. Bush picked up and this time extremely well was running. Prior to becoming the 43rd President, he ran a marathon in 3:44:52 and while in office ran three miles in 20 minutes.

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