2:08 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. What a great day it is to be with all of our friends at the White House. We celebrate the Super Bowl New England Patriots, world champions, Super Bowl champions — champions, period — and their historic win. (Applause.) And they are champions.
Before we get started, I want to acknowledge some special guests. We’re proud to be joined by seven wounded warriors who have bravely served and sacrificed for our nation. Specialist Cameron Greenstreet. (Applause.) Staff Sergeant Frederick Manning. (Applause.) Specialist James Matthews. (Applause.) Sergeant Christopher McGinnis. (Applause.) Specialist Stephanie Morris. (Applause.) Sergeant Major James Watson. (Applause.) Staff Sergeant Sheldon Warner. (Applause.)
Special people. And America is very blessed to have you with us. Thank you.
The New England Patriots are big supporters of our military and America’s veterans. Joe Cardona — where’s Joe? Where is Joe? There he is, in his beautiful navy — (applause) — thank you, Joe. Serves in the Navy Reserves and is a graduate of the Naval Academy. Coach Belichick is the son of a Navy veteran. And Bob — that’s Bob Kraft — he’s becoming a pretty famous guy for winning, I’ll tell you that. Between him and Belichick, wow. You do so much to support our military. Bob has been my friend for a long time, and he wants to support our military.
So what a group of champions, all of them. And, Bob, I want to commend you for building such an extraordinary organization. Five Super Bowl victories since 2002 — really unbelievable. And I’ll say this right now: George Steinbrenner, as you know, was a very good friend of mine. And George was a great champ too, but there was a little more turmoil, right? A little more turmoil in his victories. And that’s okay. He was another great one.
Since Bob bought the Patriots in 1994, they’ve won more division titles, conference championships and Super Bowl wins than any other team. No team has been this good for this long. (Applause.) He’s built a culture dedicated to winning. And he started it with his coach — and I want to tell you, that is some special man — it’s called the Patriot Way. And that really starts with Coach Belichick.
And I want to thank all of you for being with us. The Patriots are an incredible organization, and this Super Bowl victory was a complete team effort. That’s the beauty of what they do — they win as a team. (Applause.) With your backs against the wall, and the pundits — good old pundits. Boy, they’re wrong a lot, aren’t they — (laughter) — saying you couldn’t do it, the game was over, you pulled off the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time, one of the greatest comebacks of all time — but the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time. And that was just special. I think I looked at odds and they gave you less than one half of 1 percent of winning the game.
And then the coach said, let’s go for three. He’s losing by so much, he said, let’s go for three. And I say, what is he doing? That was a great decision, Coach. (Laughter.) I tell him that all the time.
The fourth down conversion by Danny Amendola — where’s Danny? Where’s Danny? (Applause.) Way to go, Danny. The big sack by Trey Flowers. Big sack. Where’s Trey? Come on, put your hand up, Trey. See, he’s shy, a little bit. (Applause.) You weren’t shy when you hit that guy, were you? You weren’t shy about — he didn’t mind hitting. Thank you, Trey. Great job. The incredible catch by Julian Edelman. (Applause.) What a catch. We all said, no, that ball was dropped. Isn’t that good? You know, in the old days, they might have said that was dropped. Those replays are good. You’re starting to like the replay, right? (Laughter.) Great going, Julian.
I think of guys like Marcus Cannon and the offensive line. Marcus? (Applause.) That’s some line. Or Matt Slater, who was awarded the 2017 Bart Starr Award for the character and leadership he has shown both on and off the field. Malcolm Mitchell — (applause) — it’s true. (Applause.) Malcolm Mitchell, who, as a rookie, handled the pressure of the Super Bowl like an absolute true veteran. Way to go, Malcolm. (Applause.) Good job.
Or Nate Ebner, who played on our Olympic rugby team last summer. Pretty good athlete, right? And in Brazil — he was in Brazil playing and doing really well, and is an All-Pro special team guy and player. So, Nate, congratulations. Where’s Nate? (Applause.) Which is the tougher sport, Nate, football or rugby?
MR. EBNER: I don’t know. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I had a feeling you might say that. But everyone played a role, and everybody played as champions. It was the first overtime game in Super Bowl history, and it ended with a legendary victory for this proud franchise and for these absolutely terrific players and coaches.
You had the best record in football with 14 wins and only two losses. And that doesn’t happen by accident. It takes hard work, dedication, and a commitment by every member of the team to work together in pursuit of the ultimate goal, a goal that very few people achieve. And you’ve achieved it five times, many of you, and our coach and our owner have achieved it five times. Great, great talents, great, great people.
Whether you’re trying to win a Super Bowl or rebuild our country, as Coach Belichick would say, there are no days off. And just a quick story about the coach. So I had won the primaries, and I’m now in this rather heated election that a few of you have read about. And he wrote me this beautiful letter after the primaries. “Congratulations,” he said all sorts of things that were really good. I mean, it was really a beautiful letter. And it was very close to going before the election. And I called up, and I said, Coach, do you mind if I read the letter tonight to a stadium full of people in a very, very big and important state? And he said, “You know what? I’d rather not have you do that. Could you send it back to me? I’m going to give you another one.” I said, no that’s okay. “Nope, I want to give you another one.” Now, immediately to me, that means he’s going to tone it down because what he said was so nice. And you know what he did? He toned it way up. It was much better. It was much better. He made that the greatest letter, and I did very well in that state. Thank you, Coach. That was very good.
But, you know, he’s just a very special guy. And he’s tough. Is he tough, fellas, or a nice guy? Huh? A little tough, right? He’s tough, he’s smart, and he’s got a great heart.
So the Patriot coaches and these great players have delivered iconic American sports moments that will last forever. We’re going to watch that game over and over and over. That game will last forever. Five Super Bowl wins in the era of free agency, which is really, really tough. What an achievement.
So again, congratulations to Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. And with that, I’d like to ask a very special and talented man, and a great friend of mine for a long time, Bob Kraft, to say a few words. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
MR. KRAFT: Thank you, Mr. President. It’s a true honor to be here for the fifth time celebrating a world championship. And every time that we have the privilege of coming here to the White House, I think about the long odds that were faced by our country’s forefathers who fought for our freedom and independence.
Overcoming long odds through hard work, perseverance, and, most importantly, mental toughness is the foundation of everything that is great about this country. I am proud that the first time we came here as a team after winning a championship as 14-point underdogs but infinitely more important was it was the season of 9/11, 2001, at a time in which our nation showed its mental toughness to rally together and to rebound from an unthinkable tragedy.
This year’s championship was achieved after falling behind by 25 points — a deficit so great that in the 97-year history of the NFL — over 20,000 games — that deficit had only been overcome seven times. In that same year, a very good friend of mine for over 25 years, a man who is mentally tough and hardworking as anybody I know, launched a campaign for the presidency against 16 career politicians, facing odds almost as long as we faced in the fourth quarter. He persevered to become the 45th President of the United States. (Applause.)
It’s a distinct honor for us to celebrate what was unequivocally our sweetest championship with a very good friend and somebody whose mental toughness and strength I greatly admire. And I would like to call upon our coach to say a few words. But before, we’d like to jointly present —
(The President is presented with a jersey.) (Applause.)
A Super Bowl LI Championship jersey. (Applause.)
MR. BELICHICK: Thank you. On behalf of the team, the organization, I just want to thank the President and his great staff for wonderful day, a wonderful opportunity here. We’ve had the great privilege to be here several times, but this one — the way we were treated and the opportunities to be in the Oval Office, to meet with the President, to see the inside of the White House has just been fabulous.
So along with the parade, the ring ceremony — as a team, the opportunity and the privilege of coming to the White House is just one of the great things about winning the Super Bowl. And so we’re very privileged to be here, and we thank the President and his great staff for the hospitality that they have shown us.
Also, our great Patriot fans here and throughout Patriot Nation, thank you for coming out today. (Applause.) As Mr. Kraft said, this is really a special team. These guys work incredibly hard all year. They put all the work in in advance when we didn’t have anything to show for it. And then as the year went on — you know, a total of 17 victories. They were all tough. These guys are mentally tough. They’re physically tough. They love to compete and they knew how to compete under pressure, and that’s probably when we played our best football as we saw in overtime in the Super Bowl.
So I’m incredibly proud and honored to coach this group with our coaching staff. Our coaching staff did a tremendous job this year. I’m so appreciative of them. And then this day really is — you know, it’s a great day for us, it’s a thrill to be here, and we appreciate your support, and we appreciate, again, the great treatment that we received from the President and his staff. Thank you very much.
And we have one other presentation to make. Super Bowl LI helmet. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
2:27 P.M. EDT