SIDELINE OBSERVATIONS: Remember athletes who served for our freedoms

Published: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 07:42 PM.

Dwight Eisenhower played football and baseball at West Point before having his athletic career cut short trying to tackle Jim Thorpe. Gerald Ford was a star center at Michigan. George H.W. Bush was captain of the Yale baseball team. John Kennedy was a swimmer at Harvard. Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan played small college football as well. And Reagan, who played the Gipper in the 1940 biopic "Knute Rockne, All American," also was a sportscaster before moving to acting and then politics.

Our sports heroes and our military heroes often are the same people. The Baseball Hall of Fame is filled with men who sacrificed years of their careers to defend the United States during World War II.

Boston Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams was a fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean Conflict. Yogi Berra, the great New York Yankee catcher, worked on a rocket launching boat during the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Cleveland Indian pitching great Bob Feller served as a gunner’s captain on the Battleship Alabama.

Dallas Cowboys Coach Tom Landry, an Army Air Corps pilot, flew 30 missions over Europe in a B-17. Chad Hennings, a Cowboys defensive lineman in the 1990s, is an Air Force Academy graduate who flew fighter jets before retiring from the military. Rocky Bleier almost lost his life in Vietnam, but came back to start at halfback on the great Pittsburgh Steeler teams of the 1970s.

Roger Staubach, who won the 1963 Heisman Trophy while playing quarterback at the Naval Academy, led the Dallas Cowboys to their first two Super Bowl wins.

David Robinson was 6-foot-8 when he entered the Naval Academy — 7-foot-1 when he graduated — and was the top pick in the 1987 National Basketball Association draft. He led the Spurs to two NBA championships.

Yes, many other brave men and women have entertained us on the athletic fields and served on the battlefield. Some, such as former Arizona Cardinal defensive back Pat Tillman, gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

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