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 Home > News & Policies > May 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 4, 2001

Remarks by the President and Coach Deberry of the Air Force Academy Falcons During Commander-In-Chief Trophy Event
The South Portico

listenListen to the President's Remarks

9:35 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Thank you all for coming. It's my honor to welcome you all to the White House. I want to thank the Generals who are here, and the members of the congressional delegation that have come. Most of all, I want to welcome Coach DeBerry and the Fighting Falcons of the United States Air Force Academy. (Applause.)

Members of the Air Force Academy football team take a picture of President Bush after he gave the team the Commander In Chief Trophy Friday morning at the White House. WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY ERIC DRAPER

It is my honor to present the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, which recognizes gridiron supremacy amongst our nation's service academies. The Falcons' record of success in service academy football is truly stellar. They won this trophy 10 of the last 12 years -- 14 times overall.

The seniors on this team completed their careers with a 37 and 12 record. It's the next-to-best record of any group of seniors in academy history, and I want to congratulate you all. (Applause.)

I know you all take special pride in your coach; he's got an outstanding record as well. This is the 12th time in 17 seasons under Coach DeBerry that the Falcons have won the Commander-In-Chief Trophy.

I thought it was interesting that the first time he brought his seniors to the White House was in 1986. Ronald Reagan was still the President, the Berlin Wall still stood, windows were something that you washed. (Laughter.)

As Coach DeBerry reminded everyone at last year's White House ceremony, Presidents come and go, but coaches do not have term limits. (Laughter.) Coach, a word of caution: (Laughter.) Winning this trophy is supposed to be a struggle, not a hobby. (Laughter.) And the truth is, if you spend any more time in Washington, the folks back in Colorado Springs are going to start saying, you're out of touch. (Laughter.)

I love Coach DeBerry's motto -- faith, family and Falcons. This is a man who has his priorities straight. And they must be, because he's not just recruiting football talent, he's recruiting character. He's not just recruiting to win football games, he's recruiting to win our nation's wars, if we have one.

These seniors know that conference titles, bowl victories and trophies are not nearly as important as the solemn oath they will take in just a few weeks as newest officers in the world's finest Air Force. Today, we honor the history that you've made on the playing field. But we look forward to even more of the history you will make serving our nation.

Coach DeBerry, if the past is prologue, I suspect you, too, will have a bright future. And you've got an opener next season with another team that recently visited the White House: The mighty Oklahoma Sooners. And my hope is that you try to soften them up a bit before they play the Texas teams. (Laughter.)

But it's my honor to congratulate you; and congratulations in advance for the service you will render to our fabulous nation.

God bless. (Applause.)

COACH DeBERRY: Mr. President and distinguished guests, I'm very proud this morning to accept the Commander-In-Chief Trophy for the 2000 Fighting Falcons of the United States Air Force Academy.

You know, sir, the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy is the number one goal in our football program every year at the Academy, and we humbly appreciate you having us here at your house and having us here for this ceremony this morning. And, incidentally, we plan to be back next year, also. (Laughter.)

Mr. President, General Dallager and Colonel Spetman, the coaches and I are very proud of this senior class. They have distinguished themselves as one of the best to have ever won the blue and silver of the United States Air Force Academy. Sir, they're the second-winningest team in Air Force Academy history, having won 38 games in their four years at the Academy.

They know how to win, sir, and -- but they possess great leadership skills. The motto of this year's team was, "champions every day." And, Mr. President, these men are true champions, both on the field as well as off the field in every area of their lives, I can assure you.

In a few days, Vice President Cheney will be addressing the graduating class and confirming these seniors as graduates of the Academy. Of course, we haven't had exams yet, and some of these still might be a little precarious -- (laughter) -- but I think they're going to all be all right. But we're certainly going to really miss these young men on the fields of friendly strife and their play, but we're excited about the qualities that they bring to our great Air Force. And, sir, that's what Falcon football is all about.

They've learned some great lessons, I guarantee you, on the national competition level, and it's exciting to see the superb leadership that they will bring, I think, for our Air Force and as the leaders of this nation.

And now, sir, I'd like to ask our quarterback, Mike Thiessen, who hails from the great state of California, as well as our running back, Scotty McKay from California, to step up and make some presentations. But let me, again, thank you, sir, for hosting us and for a great day for these Falcons, and I can assure you that they will never, ever, ever forget.

And, sir, we'd love to see you at our Navy game next year. We play right here in Washington at Redskins Stadium, and you know that you've always got a ticket at Falcon Stadium, though, sir, and we'd be honored to have you. (Laughter.) Men? Thank you, sir. We appreciate it. (Applause.)

(Team members present the President with a jersey and a cap.) (Applause.)

END 9:39 A.M. EDT