Lifeguarding to pro football offers: Who were America’s fittest presidents?
By Brittany Anas
Abe Lincoln wrestled. George W. Bush was part owner of the Texas Rangers. And, Teddy Roosevelt boxed when he was a teenager.
Sports are about as American as apple pie. So, it’s no surprise that some of our nation’s leaders have athletic prowess. In honor of President’s Day on Feb. 18, here’s a look at our country’s most fit and athletic presidents.
• Ronald Reagan: As a teenager, Reagan was a lifeguard at Rock River, a treacherous recreation area along the Mississippi River. He took lifeguarding classes at his local YMCA prior to the gig. In 1928, he was featured in the Dixon Daily Telegraph for saving a man after another man had given up, according to an account of “The Presidents,” written Dennis Gaffney and Peter Gaffney. (Click here for coupons and cash-back offers from Books a Million). Reagan lifeguarded for six summers and put a notch in a log for every person he saved. The total: 77.
• Gerald Ford: The stand-out football star played center and linebacker for the University of Michigan’s football team. The Wolverines won two national championships — in 1932 and 1933 — while Ford played. He was offered pro contracts and could have played for the Detroit Lions or the Green Pay Packers.
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• Barack Obama: Our current president has an election day ritual: Playing a game of basketball. On Election Day in 2012, Obama hooped it up with former Chicago Bulls player Scottie Pippen and former Duke player Reggie Love. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, also plays in the pick-up games with Obama and has been quoted saying the president has a good cross-over.
• John F. Kennedy: Kennedy swam for Harvard University. But, he also enjoyed golfing, sailing and tennis. A Kennedy family tradition was playing touch football.
• Jimmy Carter: While in high school in Georgia, he was a basketball player. During his presidency, his workout of choice was running. He ran races, though perhaps the most memorable one was a 6-mile race in 1979 when the president collapsed from heat exhaustion.
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PHOTOS FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: President Ronald Reagan spent six summers lifeguarding in a treacherous stretch along the Mississippi River; President Gerald Ford played football for the University of Michigan and had pro offers; President Barack Obama plays basketball on Election Day.
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