WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama honored the national championship University of Alabama football team on Monday at a White House event where the president punctuated his remarks by declaring, "Roll Tide."
Obama congratulated the team for its undefeated season and invoked Alabama coaching legend Paul "Bear" Bryant as he recognized the program for its first national title in 17 years. He said the team's newfound success is due in large part to the efforts of coach Nick Saban, who quickly turned the program around after arriving in Tuscaloosa and won a championship in his third season.
"I think it's safe to say that the Tide is back," Obama said, to the occasional "Roll Tide" chant from his audience.
The president received a football, helmet and jersey from Alabama players after his speech and went on to shake the hands of most of the team, including Saban and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.
"As Coach Bryant once said, "I think the most important thing of all for any team is a winning attitude," Obama said. "I think this team would make him proud, because they've got that winning attitude."
Among those in attendance was Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who has repeatedly clashed with Obama on economic and banking issues by virtue of his position as the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee.
Obama also pointed out to the crowd that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was not in attendance. Gibbs is from Auburn -- home to the Crimson Tide's heated rival.
"He's hiding in his office right now," Obama said to laughter.