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Five of the Most Athletic U.S. Presidents

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Five of the Most Athletic U.S. Presidents
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Gerald Ford on the football field at the University of Michigan (1933).

When we conjure up images of past U.S. presidents, we usually envision them standing behind a podium or sitting in a high backed chair in the Oval Office. We are not likely to imagine these men playing football, engaging in wrestling bouts or going a few rounds in a boxing ring. We would be surprised to learn that many of our beloved former U.S. presidents were excellent athletes.

Here are five U.S. presidents who excelled in sports:

Andrew Jackson: The nation's seventh president reportedly excelled at wrestling; however, he makes this list because of his skills as a duelist. Some people might not consider dueling to be a sport; however, it does take a certain amount of skill to successfully shoot at your opponent while trying to avoid being shot yourself. Jackson must have been very skilled indeed. He participated in numerous duels and survived them all.

Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln is best remembered for leading the nation through the Civil War; however, he was reportedly also one of the best wrestlers in Illinois during the 1830s. Standing 6 feet 4 inches and with disproportionately long arms, Lincoln would have presented a challenge for any wrestling opponent.

Theodore Roosevelt: The nation's 26th president may not have been the best athlete, but he exemplified the athletic spirit. Roosevelt worked very hard to keep himself in shape and was not afraid to engage in rough sports like boxing and wrestling. The president in fact participated in a wide range of sports ranging from swimming to fencing. He was an excellent hunter.

Dwight Eisenhower: Eisenhower is probably best remembered as the commander of the U.S. forces during World War II; however, the former president was also an excellent athlete. Eisenhower played collegiate football in 1912 while at West Point. He had tremendous potential and might have gone on to play professionally had he not suffered a career-ending knee injury.

Gerald Ford: The former president was an outstanding athlete. He played linebacker for the University of Michigan--one of the most storied football programs in the country. In 1934, Ford was the MVP of his team. Very few Americans, much less presidents, can boast of doing something similar.

Sources:

Peter Grier. Which President Was the Best Football Player? The Christian Science Monitor.

Jennie Cohen. How the U.S. President Became the Nation's Star Athlete. The History Channel.

The author has a B.A. in History from Roanoke College and is an avid sports fan. His favorite teams are the Pittsburgh Steelers (in football) and the Atlanta Braves (in baseball).

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