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'Never give up,' Bush advises
The president offers encouragement and, while playing catch with Chris Simms, has no passes batted down.
By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published September 22, 2006
[Times photos: Joseph Garnett Jr.]
President Bush admires the 19½-inch biceps of Tampa Bay Buccaneer Michael Pittman during a brief visit Thursday to the Bucs' new training facility. The team presented Bush, the forty-third president, with a No. 43 "Bush" jersey.
TAMPA - Bucs general manager Bruce Allen, the brother of Sen. George Allen, R-Va., extended an invitation to President Bush to drop by the team's headquarters Thursday.
Bush did more than take him up on his offer.
He spent nearly a half-hour with the winless team, encouraging the players to "never give up."
And he even squeezed in a little catch with fellow Longhorn Chris Simms, who was in his first two years as a quarterback at Texas while Bush was governor. Not one of Bush's several passes was batted down.
Bush then met with everyone from the players to the trainers.
"He wanted to meet everyone in the organization and talk about their job," Allen said. "I think as a former sports owner (of the Texas Rangers), he understands a sports franchise. To meet the president of the United States is something you'll always, always remember."
Bush arrived via motorcade, with dozens of motorcycle officers and Secret Service agents spread across the practice fields and even on the building's roof.
But the president transformed from politician to fan upon his arrival.
"He knew our players," coach Jon Gruden said. "He knew (Ronde) Barber and (Derrick) Brooks. He knew all our guys. He's a guy who has a real sports background, so he's very, very interested in football and what's going on in the league."
Can Bush do what Gruden and his staff have been unable to: motivate the 0-2 Bucs?
"It's a little different when the coach is telling you to do this and do that," Gruden said. "You've got the president coming and giving you some advice. That's something you've got to listen to. Hopefully it worked. If it doesn't work out this week, you can call the president and see what happens."