August 6th, 2008
01:12 PM ET

McCain hits the gridiron

Sen. John McCain gives the Marshall University football team a pep talk during practice, Wednesday.

Sen. John McCain gives the Marshall University football team a pep talk during practice, Wednesday.

Senator McCain walked out of the field house onto the Marshall University football field in West Virginia today, accompanied by University President Stephen Kopp and head football coach Mark Snyder.

He stopped briefly to chat with a few men and women seated in the lower corner of the stadium, then came back onto the field and marched up the sidelines to the far end of the field where defensive drills were taking place. The trio then chatted with defensive coordinator Rick Minter, former head coach at the University of Cincinnati.

McCain and the men chatted with a handful of players. Following this, the senator stood in the middle of the field, again with Kopp, Snyder and another assistant coach, who began to call some plays for the offense. They ran about four of them. The assistant coach then asked McCain what play to call next. McCain replied, jokingly, “I’m out of plays.”

Coach Snyder called his players in for a pep talk and introduced McCain.

He called him a hero. He said people like McCain, who served in the military, were what make this country great. He seemed to choke up a bit.

McCain then spoke for at least 10 minutes to the players. He said he was honored to be at a school like Marshall that had faced such a great tragedy.

Marshall’s team plane crashed while flying back from a game against East Carolina in 1970. Nearly all of the team and most of the coaches were killed, but the school decided to carry on with the program. This was the basis for the film “We Are Marshall.”

McCain said to them, “As you may know I am running for president.” He added that he was “lucky enough to have won the nomination of his party,” and that there are two candidates left.

Taking a cue from the Marshall legend, he began to tell a story about carrying on in the face of adversity and then went into unusual detail about how he was shot down in Vietnam.

He pointed to different parts of his body: “They broke my shoulder, and they bayoneted me here, and in the shoulder.” He then told the Mike Christian anecdote –the one about sewing American flags into his shirt.

It was a story about patriotism and teamwork, and he then told the players that millions of Americans, and servicemen and women overseas, will be watching them this season.

He concluded by saying, “We know this is a special institution, because we are Marshall!”

The players seemed to have mixed reactions (some of them were clearly thinking, “Who is this guy again?”), but they all applauded after his remarks, and then the coach told everyone to go to their meetings.

Editor's note: This was originally filed as a TV pool report covering the campaign trail.

Filed under: Behind The Scenes • John McCain
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    Wondering who this guy was? Give me a break – if people don't know who the candidates are and can't recognize them they are living under a rock.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 6, 2008 at 8:59 pm |
  2. Annie Lee

    Vince.....thank you!!!!
    I wonder is it right to use campaign money to campaign oversea? Personally I find it insulting. I doubt that he used his own money.

    Go McCain!!!!

    Annie Lee
    El Dorado Hills, California

    August 6, 2008 at 5:32 pm |
  3. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    "some of them were clearly thinking, “Who is this guy again?” So now CNN can read minds? Well, what am I thinking about your biased coverage right now?

    August 6, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  4. Vince in CA

    Cindy~~~i agree with your comment about the players not knowing this guy. CNN likes to disrespect McCain and now those players as well. About McCain "going anywhere". Look at Obama.....he went to Europe to campaign. To the Middle East as well. I'd rather McCain deal with us "little" people on a human level then have him go overseas to try and get votes from foreigners. He can say what he wants....but I'm not stupid. Obama's "fact finding" trip was a campaign trip. And even so...I wouldn't elect someone who has to to 300 advisors and a trip overseas to get spun up on foreign affairs so that he can be President in the next few months.

    August 6, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  5. lampe

    Shemmy: what was the hardship that Obama overcame? If Obama can pander to the young voters, I guess McCain figures he can too.

    August 6, 2008 at 2:47 pm |
  6. Donnell

    I wonder if McCain ended with another bad joke...No new idea, no new policies, no new job...

    August 6, 2008 at 2:39 pm |
  7. Shemmy

    McCain makes it seem that he is the only one who went through hardship,i applaud him for his service,yes he is a great man, but Obama did not have it so easy either, McCain is a hero, but for overcoming so many obstacles just because he wants to help people, we could say the same about Obama

    August 6, 2008 at 2:10 pm |
  8. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    hey McCain............

    Why would millions of people be watching Marshall this year?

    August 6, 2008 at 1:37 pm |
  9. Alexander Tate

    I would like for someone to ask McCain or one of his supporters what the definition of "short term" and "long term" is, with regards to their energy plan (and make them answer the question directly). I learned in college that short term is a year or less, and long term is more than a year.
    So if their long term plan is to drill more oil, with a net of 3% (long term) how does it break our "ADDICTION" to oil.

    August 6, 2008 at 1:33 pm |
  10. Tom

    "Damn youngins!" – they didn't know who Jimmy Carter was either and he was boo'ed off stage... At least this group was polite, maybe indifferent, but polite.

    August 6, 2008 at 1:33 pm |
  11. JC- Los Angeles

    A Presidential waterboy, that appears to be the only way that McCain could make it onto the gridiron.

    August 6, 2008 at 1:28 pm |
  12. Cindy

    I guess McCain will go anywhere to stump huh? This is a first! LOL But to say that these players had no idea who McCain was is absurd. Anyone with half a brain who has a TV or the net can't miss seeing him or Obama. They are all over both of them.


    August 6, 2008 at 1:24 pm |
  13. Larry

    It was a very emotional film.

    August 6, 2008 at 1:18 pm |