Bush welcomes Manning, Colts to White House
WASHINGTON -- Even when football season ends, superstar quarterback Peyton Manning is hard to miss on TV. He has become such a marketable pitchman that his commercials -- a sports drink here, a credit card company there -- seem endless.
"So a lot of people here in the White House compound have been really looking forward to seeing Peyton Manning," Bush said Monday on the South Lawn. "They wanted to see a guy who gets more air time than I do."
The good-natured poke came as Bush welcomed another championship team to the White House: The Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts beat the Chicago Bears, 29-17, in a pounding rainstorm last February to become Super Bowl champs. On Monday, players basked in the sunshine below the South Portico, as Bush hailed them for ignoring naysayers and playing as a well-balanced team.
As he usually does at these events, Bush played up the theme of perseverance. He liked that the Colts fought through ups and downs.
"Isn't that what life is about, isn't it really?" Bush said. "Through the ups -- it's easy to fight hard in the ups. It's when the downs come that you've got to be a fighter."
The team's coach, Tony Dungy, became the first black coach to win a Super Bowl. Long one of the most respected figures in the National Football League, Dungy coped with the suicide of his son, James, in late 2005. Bush alluded to that.
"He is a man who has used his -- a position of notoriety to behave in a quiet and strong way in the face of personal tragedy that has influenced a lot of our fellow citizens," Bush said of Dungy, who stood next to him on stage. "And I want to thank you for your courage."
The Colts are used to getting showered with attention. More than 93 million people watched the Super Bowl. Yet the team's players and executives seemed awed to be at the White House, and they didn't hide it.
Players pulled out personal cameras to get photos with Bush. They did the same with another political star and football fan who showed up for the ceremony -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Earlier, players visited injured troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Manning, Dungy and a handful of others also got a 20-minute tour of the Oval Office from Bush.
"Winning the Super Bowl a few months ago was probably about as special as you could get," Manning told reporters after the White House ceremony. "But I'm not sure you could actually beat what's happened here today."
As for all those commercials, Manning said he's used to getting ribbing from teammates. All Bush did, he said, was provide "more ammo for the offensive line to have some fun with me."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press