Commander in cleats

TKC staffers Christian Heutel and Maisie Bradley reflect on past presidents and candidate’s athletic careers prior to working in politics.

1. Before Gerald Ford entered the oval office, his name was already known because of his athletic accomplishments. As a teenager, Ford was a center on his high school football team and became one of the best in Nebraska. He continued his career at the University of Michigan and was named most valuable player his senior year. Ford received offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, but turned them down to go to law school. However, that did not mean leaving football in the past. Ford was offered a coaching job at Yale University that helped him pay off his debts from law school.

gerald-ford-finalAudrey Allison


2. Ronald Reagan graduated from Dixon High School in 1928 and participated in football, basketball and track during his high school career. After high school, Reagan enrolled in Eureka College where he was on the track, football and swim teams and worked as a sports announcer on several regional radio stations after graduation in 1932.  During his acting career with Warner Brothers, the 40th President portrayed George Gipp, a Notre Dame football star in the 1940 film Knute Rockne, All American.

maisie-bradley-2-ronald-reaganBridget Killian


3. Growing up, John F. Kennedy and his family were incredibly involved in any and every sport, including golf, swimming, sailing and tennis. But the most important sport to them was football, as all four Kennedy brothers played football at Harvard University, and later the Kennedy family, including its female members, enjoyed playing touch football together. JFK played on the JV football team only during his freshman year because of illness and injury.

kennedy-sportsParia Darafshan

4. After serving in World War II as a member of the U.S. Navy, George H. W. Bush attended Yale University where he was captain of the baseball team. He played first base and competed in the first two College World Series in 1947-48, in which his team received second place. Although he did not have much of an athletic career after this, he enjoys playing golf in his free time.

maisie-bradley-3-george-h-w-bushBridget Killian


5. While growing up in Park Ridge, Ill., Hillary Clinton participated in basketball, softball and swimming. Clinton also won a mixed-doubles tennis tournament in Arkansas later in life.  When she was Secretary of State, she was involved in the Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative. As a part of the initiative, Clinton invited 16 track and field athletes from the Caribbean to the White House and delivered a speech on the importance of sports, as well as the unity and equality they promote.

maisie-hilaryErica Miget

6. The 44th President of the United States has never hidden his love for the game of basketball. Barack Obama graduated from Punahou High School in Hawaii, which has more state championships than any school in the nation. He played basketball at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and led the team in points in 1979. Obama even added basketball courts to the White House so he could continue to stay in shape and play the sport he grew up with. But since entering office, he has traded in the basketball for golf clubs.

maisiepresidentobamaLizzie Stobbe

7. Besides being on the penny, Abraham Lincoln is also in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame after receiving the “Outstanding American” honor. As a young man, Lincoln was a successful wrestler and smack-talker in the ring. Out of approximately 300 matches, the 16th President of the United States only lost once. According to Carl Sandburg’s biography on Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, after one of his many wins, he reportedly taunted the crowd by stating, “I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns.”

maisie-bradley-abraham-lincolnBridget Killian









8. Donald Trump is a wealthy businessman, reality TV star and Republican U.S. presidential candidate. In high school, Trump was a three-sport athlete, participating in varsity baseball, football and soccer at New York Military Academy. According to Ted Levine, former high school classmate, Trump was good enough to go pro, but never did. Currently, Trump’s only athletic ties are his membership in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame.

maisie-trumpErica Miget

9. Baseball was always a large part of Woodrow Wilson’s life, starting in the late 1860s when he helped establish the “Lightfoot Baseball Club,” a youth neighborhood baseball club. The 28th President of the United States played second base during his freshman year at Davidson College. During his presidency, he attended many baseball games and paid for each ticket without using the Presidential Pass. In 1915 Wilson became the first president to attend a World Series game and threw out the first pitch.

maisie-woodrowErica Miget

10. George W. Bush attended Phillips Academy, an all-male boarding school in Andover, Mass., where he played baseball and was the head cheerleader. He then went on to Yale University where he continued his cheerleading career and joined the rugby union. Later in life, he decided to reconnect with his baseball career and became the general manager of the Texas Rangers. At the age of 43, Bush participated in his first marathon and years later he was running under seven-minute miles.

maisie-bradley-4-george-w-bushBridget Killian