On Wednesday, the Super Bowl XLVII champion Baltimore Ravens boarded nine buses and traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet President Barack Obama at the White House and inform the Commander-in-Chief that they plan to be back next summer.
"I want you to know we have plans to be here next year, too," head coach John Harbaugh told Obama, who received a No. 44 Ravens jersey "Mr. President" stitched on the back.
With the players in suits behind him, Obama mentioned how different his entrance to Wednesday's event on the South Lawn was compared to how the Ravens enter M&T Bank Stadium.
"No smoke machines. No fire cannons. Obama didn't even tear up chunks of turf and rub them on his suit," Obama said, the first of two references to Ray Lewis' "squirrel dance" he'd make on Wednesday. "That reminds me...please don't do that on the South Lawn."
Obama detailed how the Ravens, as both a team and as individuals, overcome adversity throughout the regular season and pulled some late-game heroics to continue to advance through the playoffs to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Obama also congratulated Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco for his performance in the playoffs, even using the "E" word.
"Good timing with that contract, huh?" Obama asked Flacco, who signed a six-year, $120.6 million contract extension on March 4. "Capped off one of the greatest postseasons ever by a quarterback. More than 1,100 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, no interceptions. I don't know about you, Joe, but I would say that qualifies as 'elite'. And I have to say that if you keep on playing like that, you're going to challenge (Vice President Joe) Biden as the most popular person from Delaware."
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, two former members of the Ravens, were also singled out by President Obama.
"These two won't be wearing purple next year. Everybody is going to have to get used to that," said Obama. "It's welcomed news for quarterbacks. Ray retired on top, coming back from a triceps injury, which I believe was caused by that dance he does. (The injury) caused him to miss most of the regular season. Ed sprained ligaments in both of his knees during the Super Bowl, but he still made the game's only interception. And before he left Houston, where he'll be playing next year, Ed took out a full page ad in the Baltimore Sun to thank Ravens fans, saying 'I have such deep love for all of you'. So that's a class act."
Obama declined to Lewis' invitation to do the squirrel dance, but was happy to point out that the 34-year-old Reed is getting some gray in his hair.
"I'm not the only one," Obama said while turning back to address Reed. "You look like an old man...That makes me feel better. I thought I was the only guy."
Obama also noted the Ravens' off-field efforts, mentioning how they donated over $1 million to charity, helped youth stay active through the league's "Play 60" campaign, connected with a Maryland National Guard unit that was stationed in Afghanistan and are donating brand new uniforms for 42 varsity football and basketball (both boy's and girl's teams) teams at high schools in the Baltimore area.
Of course, no football event involving President Obama can come and go without a reference to his hometown team, the Chicago Bears.
"Congratulations again on your Super Bowl championship. Best of luck next season. You're going to need it in Week 11 when you go to my hometown of Chicago to play the Bears," Obama said, drawing cheers from the crowd. "I brought some Chicago fans in here just so we weren't overwhelmed."