WASHINGTON – President Bush lauded members of the Naval Academy football team on Monday for again earning the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, awarded yearly to the winner of the competition between the three major service academies.
On a breezy day in the Rose Garden, Bush praised the Midshipmen for winning the trophy for the fifth straight year. Navy beat Air Force, 31-20, and Army, 38-3, to continue its recent dominance among the academies.
"This team has had an historic season," Bush said with the players gathered behind him in dress uniform. "For the third year in a row, (you) had the most rushing yards in the nation, as well as the nation's highest graduation rate. You went to your fifth straight bowl game, and of course you accomplished your most important goal: You beat Army."
The Army-Navy rivalry is considered one of the most storied in college football.
The president mentioned many of the team's top contributors by their full name until he got to the coach, Ken Niumatalolo. Rather than risk a mispronunciation, Bush erred on the side of caution.
"Coach -- just Coach," Bush called Niumatalolo, to laughter. "You call me George, I'll call you Ken."
Navy finished its year 8-5 in 2007. Bush thanked each player for agreeing to volunteer for what he called the finest military ever.
"You signed up after 9-11," the president said. "You knew the stakes involved in the war against extremists and radicals. You knew that your country depended on you. And you didn't hesitate to wear the uniform."
After his brief comments, the president mingled and laughed with team members for several minutes before returning to the Oval Office.