What U.S. Presidents Played Football?

What US Presidents Played Football

When people think of presidents of the United States, their athletic ability is not typically the first thing to come to mind. Nonetheless, a few presidents throughout American history were also great athletes in their younger days. Some presidents were especially good at American football. The remainder of this piece will discuss a few of those presidents in detail.

Gerald Ford

The most accomplished former football player-turned-US president is Gerald Ford. Ford was the 38th president of the United States, serving in office from 1974-1979. He became president in arguably the most unique way in American history following the resignation of Richard Nixon. As Nixon’s Vice President, Ford took over. 

While his time in the White House was not quite so memorable or notable, his career as a football player was. Ford played at the University of Michigan during the early 1930s after being an All-State linebacker in high school in Michigan. He helped the Wolverines to two undefeated national championship seasons in 1932 and 1933 and was voted team MVP for the 1934 season. 

He had plenty of offers to play professional football, but he decided to turn down those opportunities and go to Yale, where he was a football coach and a law school student. One of the more interesting facts about his football career is that he is the only future president to tackle a future Heisman trophy award winner. In 1934, when Michigan was playing the University of Chicago, Ford tackled Jay Berwanger, who would go on to win the first Heisman trophy award that season.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

While he was not quite as accomplished as a football player, Dwight D. Eisenhower played college football at a high level as well. Eisenhower would eventually become the 34th president of the United States, serving two terms from 1953-1961. His main accomplishments as president included obtaining a truce in the Korean War, easing Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. 

As for his football playing days, Eisenhower played for the Army at West Point before eventually serving in the military during World War II, rising to general. At West Point, he was a starting running back and linebacker, so he played on both sides of the ball. Like Ford, he played against famous football players, tackling the great Jim Thorpe during a game against the Carlisle Indians.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan played college football for Eureka College. Reagan was in the White House from 1981-1989, serving as the 40th president in American history. Reagan was in office for the fall of the Soviet Union and helped to pass several policies to restore a struggling American economy. 

While his football playing career was not as noteworthy, he played on the offensive line for a small school named Eureka College during the late 1920s and early 1930s. More notable than his actual football playing days were Reagan’s days as an actor, which included playing Notre Dame legend George Gipp in a 1940 film called Knute Rockne.