“The Sunday Political Brunch”—February 5, 2017
Sunday, February 05, 2017
Mark Curtis, GoLocalPDX Contributor
I chuckled the other night when U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch paid tribute to the Justice for whom he had clerked, the late legal (and football) great, Byron “Whizzer” White. Gorsuch said White was “the only Justice who ever lead the NFL in rushing!” It reminded me of the columns I’ve written on Super Bowl Sundays for the past six years, honoring great athletes who went on to stellar careers in the political arena. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:
“Here Comes the Justice” – In college and then in the NFL, he was known as Byron “Whizzer” White and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. In Washington, D.C., they called him Justice Byron White, the only NFL player ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court (photo above). He was also Deputy Attorney General to Robert F. Kennedy, and administered the Oath of Office to Vice President Al Gore. Like Gorsuch, White was a Colorado native, who - in fact - led the NFL in rushing in 1938 and 1940. White is the only person from Colorado yet to serve on the high court.
“Here Comes the Judge” – Alan Page was one of the greatest defensive lineman in NFL history, and is in the Hall of Fame. A Notre Dame graduate, Page went to the University of Minnesota Law School in the off-seasons and was a member of the Minnesota Supreme Court until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2015. Page played in four Super Bowls, and his team lost them all.
“Ford Motors” – Certainly the most athletic of our Presidents was Gerald Ford. He was an All-American in football at the University of Michigan, and was drafted to play in the NFL by both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. But Ford chose to go to Yale Law School instead and helped coach the Ivy League football team. He also was an assistant football coach at my alma mater, St. Mary’s College of California, which was a national football powerhouse back in the 1940s and 50s. Like most modern Presidents, Ford was an avid golfer.
“The NFL in Congress” – There have been several NFL players who later turned to politics and won seats in Congress. They include Steve Largent of the Seattle Seahawks, Heath Schuler of the Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints, and Jon Runyan of the Philadelphia Eagles. Canadian Football star J.C. Watts served eight years in Congress from Oklahoma.
“That’s Quite a Class” – New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will be coaching his seventh Super Bowl team this year. Belichick is a 1971 graduate of the prestigious Phillips Academy Andover. His classmates included former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL), a candidate for President in 2016, and former Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-RI), also a candidate for President in 2016. Patriots executive Ernie Adams was also in that class. At one of his White House Super Bowl receptions, Belichick posed with President George W. Bush, who graduated from the same prep school in 1964.
“A Close Second” – Nineteen ninety-six Republican Vice Presidential nominee Jack Kemp was an NFL quarterback for the New York Giants, but did not get to play in the 1957 NFL Championship. He also played with the San Diego Chargers and the Buffalo Bills in the old AFL, playing in five AFL Championships games, winning in 1965 and taking home the MVP trophy. Kemp served 18 years in Congress and was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George H.W. Bush.
“Player; Coach; and Congressman” – Tom Osborne had quite a career. After graduating from Hastings College in Nebraska, he went on to play in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Redskins. Later he would be one of the most successful coaches in college football history, winning three national championships at the University of Nebraska. While that’s enough of a career for one lifetime, Osborne turned to politics, winning three terms in Congress before retiring in 2007.
Who is your favorite athlete-politician? Just click the comment button at http://www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.