Obama Navy football

President Barack Obama shows off the Navy football helment given to him after he presented the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to the Midshipmen at the White House. (Win McNamee, Getty Images / April 12, 2013)

President Barack Obama awarded Navy's football team with the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy on Thursday afternoon in the East Room at the White House.

Here are the president's remarks:

Hello, everybody.  (Applause.)  Hello.  Please, everybody have a seat.  Well, good afternoon.  Welcome to the White House. 

I want to start by recognizing Coach Ken Niumatalolo, my fellow Hawaiian, for being here once again -- where is he?  There he is right here.  (Laughter.)  Hard to miss him.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  I also want to recognize Vice Admiral Mike Miller, the Superintendent of the Naval Academy, for his outstanding service to our country and for keeping all of you guys in line.  (Laughter and applause.)   

It is my pleasure to welcome the Navy Midshipmen back to the White House to receive the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy -- again.  They have now won 19 of their last 21 games against the other service academies, making this their 8th trip here in 10 years.  (Applause.)  Michelle and I were thinking about just leaving the key under the rug.  (Laughter.)  


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This season, you finished 8-5, earned your 9th bowl appearance in the last 10 years.  But perhaps most importantly, after a two-year break, you achieved that very first goal you set at the start of every season:  You beat Air Force, you beat Army, and lugged this 170-pound trophy back to Annapolis. 

Against Air Force, you lost your quarterback to an injury in the middle of the game.  You trailed by eight points in the fourth quarter.  But freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds took over and led you back in overtime.  That’s when an unlikely hero -- offensive lineman Jake Zuzek -- gave you a --

TEAM MEMBERS:  Zu!

THE PRESIDENT:  Zu! -- gave you a 28-21 win when he recovered a fumbled snap in the end zone for his first-ever touchdown.  (Laughter.)  I’m not sure Coach called the fumblerooski, but I bet that Jake will take it anyway.

That set up a winner-take-all game with Army to end the season.  Down three entering the fourth quarter, Keenan again led the comeback, driving the team down the field for 80 yards and the winning score, and showing why he was only the third Navy freshman ever to start at quarterback.  The win gave the Midshipmen their 11th straight victory over Army, which is a series record. 

But at Navy, obviously it’s not just about the wins.  It’s about how you win.  This year, your team motto was INAM, which is short for “It’s Not About Me.”  And that ethic of teamwork and discipline and unselfishness was led by your captains, Bo Snelson and Brye French, and it ran through your entire season.  

All season long you kept your priorities in line, your mission in focus.  Your work in the classroom helped keep the Naval Academy’s graduation rate in the top 10 of the NCAA for the eighth straight year, including linebacker Keegan Wetzel –- a first-team Academic All-American with a 3.89 GPA in systems engineering.  So give Keegan a big round of applause.  I like that.  (Applause.)

And when you faced adversity, you pulled together.  Over Thanksgiving break, freshman Rafi Montalvo was in a serious car accident and doctors pulled him into a coma.  And even though the Army game was next on the schedule, Coach was one of his first visitors at the hospital down in Florida.  And then pretty soon, his teammates started showing up.  When it came time to take the field against your biggest rival, you all put “Rafi” stickers on your helmets and gave him the game ball after your victory.

So, gentlemen, that’s why I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief.  You’re there for each other and you are there for our country.  In just a few weeks when I visit you all for commencement -- and I always have to get ready because Midshipmen, they got strong handshakes, some of them give me chest bumps, I’ve got to just make sure I don’t tip over -- 18 of you will be commissioned as ensigns in the Navy, and 10 more as second lieutenants in the Marine Corps. 

And in the years to come, you will all follow their footsteps.  You’ll be leading your peers in some of the most complex, dangerous missions on the planet.  You’ll be teaching them to pull together, to keep their mission in focus, to always remember that “it’s not about me.”  And together, your victories will not simply be about football trophies -- as impressive as that trophy is -- but it will be about our security and our values and protecting our freedom. 

So I want you to know that I could not be prouder to have each of you representing this great country of ours.  Americans all across the country feel the very same way.  And every single day, we will stand behind you and support you, and do the very best that we can in our own lives to reflect the courage and the honor and the character of the men and women of the United States Naval Academy.  So God bless you.

And with that, let’s -- I understand I’ve got a little something waiting for me.  All right, that’s the official Navy helmet, fitted for me.  (Laughter.)  Pretty sharp.  (Laughter.)  Here’s the general rule:  You don’t put stuff on your head if you’re President.  (Laughter.)  That’s politics 101.  (Laughter.)  You never look good wearing something on your head.  Are we going to -- we’re going to have the coach up here.