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Air Force football seniors want to earn their trip to the White House

By: FRANK SCHWAB
September 27, 2011
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photo - Air Force's Jonathan Warzeka hauls in a pass against UNLV during the first quarter at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. Photo by THE GAZETTE FILE
Air Force's Jonathan Warzeka hauls in a pass against UNLV during the first quarter at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. Photo by THE GAZETTE FILE 

Last year Air Force won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 2002, and with that came one of the best perks in college sports – a trip to the White House to meet President Barack Obama.

But not all of the Falcons players got to go. Air Force’s tradition is only the seniors get to go meet the president. The non-seniors were hoping that tradition would be broken last year.

“It was in the back of my mind that, it had been so long, maybe they had forgot,” joked defensive end Ben Kopacka, a junior last year.

Air Force kept it by the book and sent the seniors to shake hands with Obama and present him a jersey. And the hidden effect of sending the senior class is it’s a heck of a motivation for the returning players.

“Don’t get me wrong, I was happy for the team,” receiver Jonathan Warzeka said. “But I was kind of like, ‘Man, I really want to go.’”

Air Force plays at Navy this Saturday. Those two schools have won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy every year since 1996, and all but one time since 1988. Although Army is improving, the winner of Saturday’s game will be the favorite to capture the trophy again this season. That’s one of the top goals, if not the top goal, of every service academy player.

“It’s a pride thing, bragging rights,” Warzeka said. “Every service academy wants that trophy.”

This year will be a bit different for these Air Force players. In recent years they have been the ones chasing Navy, trying to snap the losing streak and get the trophy back. This year, they’re going to encounter a very upset and motivated Navy team that lost 14-6 at Falcon Stadium last year.

“I think they’re going to be highly upset about last year’s game,” quarterback Tim Jefferson said. “This group of guys, they’ve only lost one service academy game, and that was to us. That obviously wasn’t a great feeling for them. They’re definitely going to be out for revenge. It’s going to be highly emotional.”

Jefferson said he has been to the White House, but just to visit, not to meet the president. He said the thought of getting to go to the Rose Garden and be a part of that ceremony has motivated him.

“I do think about that,” Jefferson said. “Especially last year when the seniors went and I said ‘I really wish that was me.’ But I talked to other people and they just encouraged me, ‘Hey, you have to do it again next year.’”

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