"Sure,'' Yepremian said.
Someone tossed a football. The president moved down the room as if a receiver. Yepremian, true to history, turned his back and allowed the ball to slip out of his hand behind him. Obama caught it one-handed.
"Now I'm two-for-two,'' Yepremian said.
- Bio | E-mail | Recent columns
- Obama Jokes With '72 Dolphins at White House
- 1972 Miami Dolphins honored at White House
- Photos: The '85 Bears-Dolphins game
- Photos: Perfect Season Dolphins no longer with us
- The 17-0 1972 team (1992)
- Miami Dolphins' 50 greatest players of all time
See more photos »
- Video: Hyde talks about perfection and the 1972 Dolphins
So there was still some fun to be had from that season. When the players left for the official ceremony, it was just Obama and Shula and the coach's wife, Mary Anne. And they talked football.
They talked football strategy, talked of the upcoming season, then got off on a tangent about Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who is coached by Shula's son, Mike.
For five minutes, the old coach talked with the President again. He'd done back in that 1972 season, Richard Nixon even calling his home one day to suggest running a slant pass to Warfield. The coach said it was a good idea, acted is if he didn't have that play in the book.
Now, at 83, with his scooter a reminder of time's cost, Shula received a private gift from Obama, a signed football that read, "Coach Shula, congratulations on a memorable season."
They then moved into a packed Blue Room for the official ceremony. The '72 players stood in ceremonial position as the announcement came: "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States accompanied by Coach Shula."
"I know that some people may be asking why we're doing this after all these years,'' the President said. "My answer is simple: I wanted to be the young guy up here for once."
"Aw, that's cold,'' Bob Griese said behind him.
That's how the ceremony went. Light. Fun. But with a message.
"I did have to explain to my staff, who mostly are in their early 30s, what an incredible impact these guys had, including on me, when they were playing,'' Obama said. "These Dolphins made history back before Super Bowl champs started visiting the White House."
He joked about Csonka once putting an alligator in Shula's shower. He lauded Earl Morrall, the quarterback who starred that season but couldn't make this trip due to health. Then came the big moment for the Bears fan.
"I've got to come clean here,'' the President said. "a couple years ago, I hosted the '85 Bears out on the South Lawn. They'd also missed their chance to have a White House visit, and that day I called them the greatest team ever.
"But, I mean, take it with a grain of salt. The Bears lost once in their nearly perfect season."
"Who'd they lose to?" Shula said beside him.
"It happened to be to the Dolphins,'' Obama said, laughing. "So I think you made your point. Nobody can argue with this record. Nobody can argue with what all of you have gone on to do after you hung up the shoulder pads."
He went down the list of doctors, politicians, businessmen. Nick Buoniconti founded the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.
"Some have dabbled in acting,'' he said, as Fleming even had a bit part in the Warren Beatty movie, "Heaven Can Wait." "I hear somebody serves up a pretty good T-bone as well."
He looked at Shula. They laughed. Once upon a time, the '72 Dolphins were as big as LeBron's Heat in South Florida. They remain a beacon of class and excellence. They had a deserved day Tuesday, one dripping with fun and consequence.
"My final goal with this team,'' Little called it.
"One of the highlights of my life,'' Warfield said.
Fleming, who helped organize the trip, stood back in the hotel lobby afterward with a tear on his cheek. The '72 players were collecting luggage and catching taxis on their way out of town.
They hugged. They said good-byes. They know all of them won't be back next reunion. They mentioned each teammate who has passed, then had a moment of silence for each, at a dinner Tuesday night.
"A dream come true,'' Fleming called the visit.
From the White House, you could see 1972 again for a few hours Tuesday. It was fun and loud and even came with a backward pass to the President.