MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Dolphins team that achieved the only perfect season in NFL history will be honored 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 honoring 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.
"It's a long time coming, but we're finally getting there," said linebacker Nick Buoniconti, another Hall of Famer.
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.
"Nixon was too busy calling plays" '72 Dolphins running back Mercury Morris said with a laugh. Nixon once suggested a Super Bowl play to Shula.
Dolphins representatives recently raised the idea of honoring the '72 team with the White House.
"I'm honored that the accomplishments of the 1972 Dolphins are going to be recognized by the president with a ceremony at the White House," Shula said in a statement. "It is a very special occasion, and I know it's something that all of us will enjoy and remember."
Current Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is paying expenses for the 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 honor, and they are looking forward to their trip to the White House and their ceremony with the president."
While the experience will be new for most of the '72 Dolphins, 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. "I'm thrilled to get to go again."
Other Hall of Famers on the '72 team were quarterback Bob Griese, receiver Paul Warfield, fullback Larry Csonka, center Jim Langer and guard Larry Little.
"I guess most of the guys are going," Buoniconti said. "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."
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