Ford had game in his day

Former Michigan football player most athletic president

Staff WriterJanuary 20, 2009 

There's no question that Barack Obama, with his college-basketball experience and current fondness for pick-up games, will become one of the more athletic men to occupy the Oval Office today.

Where he ranks in that category is hard to say, but here are five of his predecessors who could stake a claim to the title of Most Athletic President -- Tuesday's Top Five:

5. HERBERT HOOVER: You wouldn't know it to look at him or listen to him (these days, he'd be known as a policy wonk), but Hoover was a big believer in exercise and during the Depression was often seen on the White House lawn heaving a medicine ball around with his advisors. (Also considered: Richard Nixon, who installed a bowling alley in the White House; and Bill Clinton, who never saw a round of golf he couldn't squeeze in.)

4. GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Made two College World Series appearances as a pitcher and first baseman at Yale. Dove out of a plane to celebrate his 80th birthday in 2004 -- and has gone again since then.

3. DWIGHT EISENHOWER: Played football at Army, including a famous match-up with Jim Thorpe, before a knee injury ended his career. Left his mark on the White House by installing a putting green on the lawn. (After growing over, it was resurrected by Clinton.)

2. THEODORE ROOSEVELT: Not one for organized sports, but with his affinity for horseback riding and nature walks, and love of the outdoors back when that passed for adventure sports, it's possible he would have ended up in the X-Games if he lived today. A true afficianado of fresh air long before it was fashionable.

1. GERALD FORD: He may not have been the suavest on the golf course or walking down a stairway, but in his football days at Michigan he was a monster in the middle of the line, a three-time letter-winner on some of the best teams in the country., (919) 829-8947 or

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