Air Force waited eight long years for an opportunity to receive the Commander-In-Chief Trophy from the president. That wait ended Monday afternoon, when the service academy football players and coach Troy Calhoun were in Washington to receive the coveted hardware.
The Falcons beat Army and Navy in 2010 to wrest the trophy from the Midshipmen, who had won it for seven straight seasons. President Barack Obama hailed the team for its 9-4 season in his brief remarks, saying, in part:
"I want to congratulate the cadets. Until this year, no one on this team knew what it felt like to beat Army, to beat Navy, to visit the White House and to earn football bragging rights over the other branches. Now you know the feeling. They also know what it feels like not just to be a good service academy team, but to be a very good team period. They put up 350 rushing yards against Oklahoma, finished 9-4 after what Coach Calhoun called the toughest schedule the service academy ever played, to cap it all with a bowl win against Georgia Tech. That's impressive.
"Of course, I hear the victory that was sweetest of all was finally beating that Navy team. As soon as the final whistle blew, the loudspeaker started blasting Etta James' "At Last." The entire cadet wing rushed the field and sang the alma mater with the team. This is a group that has a lot to be proud of. Obviously, the most impressive thing about these young men is that being a football player isn't what defines them. They're airmen first and more important than any bowl game and trophy is the commitment they've made to serve this country."
He then recounted the way several players spent this past summer, from working at various bases to trying to organize 7-on-7 drills with teammates left on campus. The team gave the president an Air Force football and No. 23 jersey with his name on it. There is no No. 1 at the Air Force Academy, so they decided on 23 because it is a number the president has worn previously.