On April 17, a handful of the league's best civic champions spent an afternoon taking a behind-the-scenes tour of The White House. Their exclusive pass inside the most famous residence in the world was arranged by NFL PLAYERS, the marketing and licensing subsidiary of the NFL Players Association.
Coming into town for the NFL PLAYERS Gala Featuring the JB Awards, seven players volunteered to spend their Friday afternoon visiting 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For some players, like linebacker Chris Draft of the St. Louis Rams and offensive tackle Tony Pashos of the Jacksonville Jaguars, it was an anticipated return visit while for others, it was their first time.
"The reason why we've been able to do what we've done in the community is because we've taken advantage of the opportunity," Draft told the group.
Draft, who helped facilitate the special tour, was joined by Pashos, wide receiver Isaac Bruce of the San Francisco 49ers, wide receiver Greg Camarillo of the Miami Dolphins, free-agent wide receiver Mike Furrey, linebacker David Thornton of the Tennessee Titans and free-agent tight end Daniel Wilcox. Players brought guests such as family members, spouses and friends along for the tour, which was led by trained agents from the Secret Service. James Brown, host of the previous night's event honoring community service efforts of players, and his wife also attended.
Throughout the day, players learned interesting facts about The White House. The tour began in the estate's East Wing, which was constructed in 1942. Players were told that President Obama is planning "a big push for community service" this week, as public service is very important to the First Family. While the tour continued, players answered trivia questions about presidential history and captured the rare experience with dozens of photographs on their own cameras.
A total of 26 people took part in the memorable trip to The White House. Among the rooms included was the Green Room—former President Thomas Jefferson's dining room—offering a unique view of the Jefferson Memorial which bears his name. Players, Brown and the entire group were interested to learn some incredible White House history and the stories behind the longstanding artifacts they walked past.
"I had a good time," Bruce said. "I didn't realize how big this place is. I'll remember all the portraits, of all of the Presidents' wives, the Green Room and the Red Room. It's definitely worth coming to D.C. to take a tour of The White House."
Bruce said the group's tour guide was "very, very informative and enlightened us in many ways." Pashos called the visit "an amazing treat for me." Being in the presence of the timeless facts and fascinating historical collections which helped shape the United States of America certainly was not lost on the players.
"It is a very enlightening and rare experience," a smiling Thornton said. "You get to go through The White House and receive valuable expertise about the way it's structured the way it is. My favorite part is the history behind each room and why pictures are placed in certain locations. All those interesting facts really make this an awesome experience."
Thornton, who was visiting The White House for the first time, said his favorite rooms were the Red Room and the private movie theater, where President Obama watched Super Bowl XLIII. He also found it interesting that fresh flowers are brought in every two to three days for decoration inside the building.
When asked his favorite U.S. President, Thornton didn't hesitate before answering: "President Obama."
"Of all the Presidents that have been in office, his has been the most monumental for several reasons," said Thornton, calling the opportunity very special and a priceless experience. Joining Thornton as his guest was his community relations director for different community projects, Jessica Castellanos, who also acts as his publicist and marketing representative.
The White House has six floors, despite some in the group saying that it looks more like just two or three from the outside. It occupies 18.2 acres of land, and has 11 bedrooms plus 55,000 square feet of living space. There are three oval rooms inside The White House, one of which—the famous Oval Office—players and their guests were able to look inside. Tour leaders told the group that a typical day for the President to work in his Oval Office starts at 8 or 9 a.m. and goes until 7 p.m. or later.
In addition to the East and West Wings, the special tour group walked past the Rose Garden on a beautiful Spring day—where some players reported seeing Michelle Obama walking with Sasha and Malia Obama and the First Family's new dog, Bo, on the grounds.
"It's something I'll always remember," Furrey said. "This is where the most powerful man in the universe lives and runs the most dominant country. To be in his house with the history here is amazing. You're seeing the artifacts, you're seeing the rooms, you're seeing everything in person. It's just amazing.
"There's history in every room—the Blue Rooms, libraries, hallways, dining rooms. Everything is historic. What we're getting is beyond the normal public. Whenever something like that happens, it's a blessing and it's an honor to be part of something like this."
As players asked questions and purchased several souvenirs to commemorate an unforgettable day, they learned how U.S. Presidents have personalized and changed their mansion residence over time. The all-access tour lasted for nearly two-and-a-half hours, but the time seemed to fly by for them.
Near the end of the tour, in the official White House Press Room, security personnel and staff thanked the players for coming and for providing entertainment to them on Sundays. Bruce's wife, Clegzette Bruce, was visiting The White House for the first time and said she'd someday like to bring their children for a return trip.
"I think it was really interesting to see history and be blessed enough to see [things] that most people don't get to see," she said. "In the Oval Office, seeing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s bust came full-circle as far as history is concerned."