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Janie Harris | | November 3, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Former presidents also former student-athletes

  Gerald Ford was named Michigan's MVP in 1934.

The United States will soon find itself naming the 45th President of the United States. But, what do colligate athletics have to do with the President of the United States?

Since the 20th century began, 10 United States presidents participated in various collegiate athletics, including some as football players during their time in college.

So, we throwback to the football careers of former Presidents of the United States:

Dwight D. Eisenhower | 34th President

West Point

In 1911, Eisenhower enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After playing years of high school football and baseball, he looked to be able to continue on with his athletics. “As a football player, he tackled hard and was stimulated by a hostile crowd,” read LIFE Magazine.

  Eisenhower was a varsity starter on the West Point football team.
LIFE Magazine reported while he did not make the baseball team, he played two seasons with the Army football team as a halfback. He looked to be one of the most promising players for West Point until he suffered a broken leg during a game. Before the leg fully healed, he injured it again while riding horseback.

This injury prevented him from coming back onto the field, so he turned to fencing and gymnastics to stay in shape.

John F. Kennedy | 35th President


Kennedy, while attending Harvard, spent sometime on the Harvard football team. However, he did not excell in the sport like his brothers, according to The Harvard Crimson, so he joined the swim team. His coaches recalled his physique not being anything special in the athletic world. Still, they reported that he was popular with teammates, and while his skills on the football field left much to be desired, in the pool, he did well. 

Gerald R. Ford | 38th President


With Michigan possibly on its way to the CFP this year and the title holder of the winningest football program, it shouldn’t surprise you that a number of great football players call themselves Wolverines. However, the 1934 Michigan MVP also called eventually himself the 38th President of the United States.

According to Michigan Athletics, he earned three varsity letters as the Wolverine’s starting center. In 1994, Michigan retired his No. 48 jersey during halftime of a Michigan State game.  

  Gerald Ford (48) was named a Michigan Football Legend in 2012.
Also, while gaining his law degree from Yale, Ford served as the assistant football coach to the Bulldogs in 1941.

However, in 2012, Michigan pulled his number from retirement to name Ford a Michigan Football Legend and allow linebacker Desmond Morgan to wear No. 48 for his time with the Wolverines.

Ronald W. Reagan | 40th President

Eureka College

The 40th President of the United States enrolled at Eureka College in Illinois in 1928. According to the school, he was involved in a number of activities on campus, including student government, 14 plays, and of course, athletics.

  Ronald Reagan at his alma mater.
He lettered three times while playing guard for the football team. However, he was also known for being the college’s leading swimmer and a star member of the track team.

He eventually moved away from athletics and into the dramatic arts before diving into politics, but his name can still be found throughout the athletic department at Eureka. 

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