The Miami Dolphins team that achieved the only perfect season in NFL history will be honoured by the White House next Tuesday, more than 40 years after its accomplishment.
President Obama will welcome the 1972 Dolphins for the first White House ceremony honouring the only team to go 17-0. Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula plans to accompany players from the team to the event.
The team also included quarterback Bob Griese, receiver Paul Warfield, fullback Larry Csonka, centre Jim Langer, guard Larry Little and linebacker Nick Buoniconti, all members of the Hall of Fame.
"It's a long time coming, but we're finally getting there," Buoniconti said. "I guess most of the guys are going. I hear Csonka is trying to come in from Alaska. Knowing Zonk, hopefully he'll be there. He was such an integral part of that team, and his personality would go well with the president, because he's whimsical. I'm sure he'll have a few things to say to the president."
Current Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is paying expenses for the '72 team's trip. Ross said the entire organization was excited about the invitation.
"By going undefeated all year en route to a Super Bowl championship, the '72 Dolphins reached the pinnacle of sports achievement and set a standard for excellence that has yet to be duplicated," Ross said in a statement. "In addition, coach Shula and his players were just as successful off the field in their charitable and civic activities, becoming role models for the South Florida community.
"The players and coaches are most deserving of this unique honour, and they are looking forward to their trip to the White House and their ceremony with the president."
The '72 Dolphins didn't make it to the White House in the months after their Super Bowl victory, when President Nixon — a big sports fan — was immersed in the Watergate scandal.
But the White House visit will be Buoniconti's fourth with four different presidents. He has been invited as a co-founder of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. As executive vice-president of the NFL Players Association, he visited the White House when Nixon was president.
"He gave us a couple of hours and gave us a tour," Buoniconti said. "It's a great experience. I'm thrilled to get to go again."