FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots will be honored by President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, which sparks memories of their previous four visits.
The first time, on April 2, 2002, was attended by 48 players, according to a Boston Globe report from that day. Most notable was the presence of quarterback Drew Bledsoe, the one-time franchise building block who had lost his starting job to the upstart Tom Brady that year.
Bledsoe’s future with the Patriots hung in the balance (he was later traded to Buffalo) as then-president George W. Bush honored the Super Bowl XXXVI champions (20-17 victory against the St. Louis Rams).
"I was impressed by a lot, but let me tell you what impressed me most, was when the team took the field prior to the Super Bowl: It wasn’t one of these things where the spotlight was on any individual. Everybody went out at the same time," Bush said in the Rose Garden ceremony that day. "I thought that was a pretty good signal to America that teamwork is important; that the individual matters to the team, but the team is bigger than the individual."
Owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick presented Bush with a blue Patriots jersey with Bush’s name on the back above the number 1.
A little more than two years later, on May 10, 2004, the Patriots were back again. A photograph of the team surrounding Bush showed a lighter crowd -- about 35 players -- compared to the first trip.
Bush, who sometimes struggled in his dealings with reporters, turned to humor when he addressed kicker Adam Vinatieri, who had kicked a 41-yard field goal in the final seconds of the team’s 32-29 victory against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
"I am really impressed at how cool you are under fire," he said. "I need a few suggestions before a press conference, if you don’t mind."
Bush also ribbed Belichick.
"I remember when you were here two years ago, you said you were going to say a few words, and you said like four words," he said.
To which Belichick humorously replied, "I got carried away."
Bush once again received a Patriots jersey, and this time, Belichick also presented him a commemorative football.
During that visit, Bush had made reference to uncertainty surrounding his future, as he was vying for re-election against Democratic nominee John Kerry in November 2004.
"My hope, of course, is that I’m back here again to see you next year," he said in another light moment. "Your hope is that you come back."
Sure enough, they both did.
The Patriots, with a much lighter traveling party (about 25 players, based on pictures from the day), returned on April 13, 2005. That trip was a result of beating the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX.
Playing off the familiarity of having the Patriots at the White House again, Bush joked that he expected Belichick to be so comfortable at that point that he would wear his trademark hoodie.
Belichick, as he often is, was one step ahead of things as he later presented Bush with a hoodie of his own to wear.
"As the leader of our country and a world leader, we want you to be out front in fashion," Belichick joked as he also presented Bush with a football from the Super Bowl.
Bush, who also received another Patriots jersey from Kraft, made reference to how the Boston Red Sox had visited about a month earlier to be honored for winning the World Series.
It was a long wait for the Patriots’ next trip to the White House, which didn’t happen until April 23, 2015. The team’s dramatic 28-24 victory against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX earned them another Rose Garden ceremony, this time with President Barack Obama.
Quarterback Tom Brady didn’t make the trip -- he later explained it was because of a combination of a personal conflict and late notice of when the team would be visiting -- but about 50 other players were on hand. (Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who had signed with the Texans, wasn’t one of them.)
Obama joked about Deflategate, saying, "I usually tell a bunch of jokes at these events, but with the Patriots in town, I was worried that 11 out of 12 of them would fall flat."
That earned him a thumbs-down gesture from a smiling Belichick, who wore an Armenian flag on his suit jacket to show respect to those affected by the Armenian genocide in Turkey, which had happened almost 100 years prior to the day.
As Kraft had done in the prior three visits to the White House, he presented a Patriots jersey to the president, this time with the number 44.
"As leader of the free world, you are the ultimate Patriot," Kraft said.