Dunbar High Football Players Visit White House

Charles E. Sutton | 4/27/2012, 1:39 a.m.

Students ay the District's Dunbar High School didn't know what to expect recently when they learned that they were invited to the White House.

President Barack Obama was honoring the University of Alabama's football team for winning the BCS National Championship in January. Dunbar, which shares the same nickname with Alabama (Crimson Tide), won the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association title and was invited to be part of the audience.

Johnnie Walker, Dunbar athletic director, know what was going on, but he had to keep the president's visit a secret for almost a week - just so the players wouldn't share the information on Twitter or Facebook. Walker new that at some point he would have to tell them, so the kids would know what to wear. "I battled with them right up until they got on the bus," said Walker, who added that he was constantly debating with them about shirts and dress shoes.

With the Alabama players and coaches assembled behind him, President Obama opened his remarks by acknowledging D.C.'s own version of "the Crimson Tide" and their championship, with a shout-out to Dunbar. The Dunbar players were surprised that Obama was actually aware of them, and their hard work during their championship journey.

The acknowledgment alone, would have made the team's day, but following his remarks, Obama ventured into the audience, greeting the players.

The Dunbar players waited quietly at the far end of the crowd, as the president worked his way toward them. Eventually, Obama and extended his hand to Carlos Atkinson, a Dunbar junior, who was named defensive MVP of the Turkey Bowl, the DCIAA Championship Game.

The president stopped and spoke with Atkinson.

"I like your shirt and tie. It takes a strong man to wear pink," Obama told Atkinson.

"I laughed and said, 'thank you, sir,'" Atkkinson recalled. " I told him I would lend it to him, but I'm sure he can get a couple of these shirts on his own," joked Atkinson, who never thought his shirt would be a topic of discussion with the president of the United States.

Later that same day, the team was back at school training, getting ready for next season. As the day progressed, Atkinson retold his story several times.

"This is something that is going to stick with me forever," said Atkinson.