Football and Women's Cross Country Teams Visit the White House
Sept. 14, 2010
On Monday afternoon the national champion Villanova football and women's cross country teams were honored at the White House for their accomplishments during the 2009 season. The teams captured the 17th and 18th team national titles in the illustrious history of Villanova athletics and were recognized along with other team national champions from the 2009-10 academic year.
The teams had their picture taken in front of the White House and then enjoyed refreshments served on the South Lawn. President Obama addressed the gathering with a speech that focused on the dedication of the student-athlete and the accomplishments they attained with their respective national team championships.
"It makes me so proud to be standing here before you," Obama said. "You put in countless hours for the love of the game. You know what it takes to be the best...and you understand that the term student-athlete emphasizes student. You know how to give back."
During his comments, President Obama mentioned - though not specifically by name - Villanova's Matt Szczur, who donated blood-forming cells to a leukemia patient last spring.
"There's one young man who even donated his bone marrow to a young girl he never met," Obama said. "As he said, `That's more important than a football game' and those kind of things will stay with you the rest of your lives."
Following his speech, President Obama spent close to an hour shaking hands and greeting the national champions and other distinguished guests. Szczur, Chris Whitney and cross country head coach Gina Procaccio all had a chance to shake the President's hand.
"I live it for my girls," Procaccio said of the entire experience. "I really do. They are the ones who did it, all the hard work they put in. I love that they got a chance to have this kind of experience."
Along the way to winning the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national title for the first time in program history, the football team went 14-1 and finished the season by winning its final nine games. In the championship game, the Wildcats defeated previously unbeaten Montana to win the title.
Head coach Andy Talley reflected on the fact that one of his own players was mentioned during President Obama's remarks.
"To me, that speaks to what our program is all about," Talley said. "We were acknowledged by the President of the United States. Your players, your team, your drive. It's about saving lives, working hard at whatever you're trying to do. It really is a microcosm of the country we live in."
The women's cross country team brought home the eighth national title in program history last fall, coasting to a wide margin of victory in the championship race with five runners that all earned All-America accolades. The team knew that past national champions had the chance to visit the White House.
"We knew they had done this in the past, so we kind of joked about it all year," Procaccio said. "Just to be here and see all of it...It was even great meeting the other teams. We had our picture taken with the Oklahoma State team that won the men's title. They really enjoyed that."