Biden repeats football claim to West Point graduates at commencement address

President Biden repeated a claim about turning down an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he purportedly wanted to play football, during his commencement address at West Point on Saturday.

Biden told West Point graduates that Republican Sen. J. Caleb Boggs, whom he defeated to become a U.S. senator, had “appointed” him to the Naval Academy years before they ran against each other in 1972.

The president recounted that before his interview, “I found out two days earlier they had a quarterback named Roger Staubach, and a halfback named Joe Bellino. And I said, I’m not going there. I went to Delaware. Not a joke.” 

It’s the same story Biden told Naval Academy graduates in 2022, when he claimed he was accepted to the military institution in 1965 but declined to attend. In Saturday’s telling of the story, however, Biden did not offer a date.

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Staubach, a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer, played his first game for Navy in 1962, while Bellino, the first Naval Academy player to win the Heisman Trophy, played his last game in January 1961.

Biden played for the high school team at Archmere Academy in Claymont, graduating in 1961. In his senior year of high school, Biden was a successful wide receiver, scoring 10 touchdowns in eight games. The team went undefeated that year, Yahoo Sports reported in 2021. 

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Biden attended the University of Delaware and graduated in 1965, reportedly playing briefly on the 1961 freshman team but did not finish the season.

“In almost any group I was the leader,” Biden wrote in his autobiography, “Promises to Keep.” “I was the leading scorer on our undefeated and untied football team my senior year, and I didn’t lack for confidence on the field.”

Staubach graduated from the Naval Academy in 1964 before he left to fight in Vietnam and later returned to play 11 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. Bellino, who also fought in Vietnam and had a brief NFL career, graduated in 1961 — at least four years before Biden claimed he was thinking about playing football for the Midshipmen. 

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RNC Research, an X account operated by the Republican National Committee’s rapid response team, called Biden’s claim questionable.

“He has repeated this lie many times before and there is still no record any of it ever happened,” the RNC posted.

Biden’s speech at West Point marked the second time the president has participated in the military academy’s graduation ceremony. He previously delivered the 2016 commencement address as vice president.

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