Former Miami Dolphins football quarterback Bob Griese, left, President Barack Obama and 1972 Dolphins Coach Don Shula, right, hold a signed jersey in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, during a ceremony honoring the Super Bowl VII football Champion Miami Dolphins. The 1972 Miami Dolphins remain the only undefeated team in NFL history. Form left are, Griese, wide receiver Paul Warfield, the president, running back Larry Csonka and Shula. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Ma
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- President Obama said there's a simple reason he decided to honor football champions from four decade ago.
"I wanted to be the young guy up here for once," Obama said, surrounded by the gray-haired -- or balding -- members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Obama also said he wanted to honor the last professional football team to finish the season and playoffs unbeaten, calling it a good way to ring in the new college and pro football seasons that begin in the coming weeks.
Football champions did not get automatic invites to the White House back when the Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl on Jan. 14, 1973.
Acknowledging it's a little "unorthodox" to honor football players from the 1970s, Obama said: "I know some of them are a little harder to recognize these days -- they don't have the Afros or the mutton chops, the Fu Manchus."
Obama also offered the Dolphins his own apology of sorts. Two years ago, the president held a ceremony for the 1985 Chicago Bears, a team whose White House appearance had been canceled after the deadly accident of the Challenger space shuttle.
During the 2011 event, Obama hailed the '85 Bears as the greatest team -- a statement disputed by members of the '72 Dolphins, both then and at the White House on Tuesday.
"I mean, take it with a grain of salt," Obama told the Dolphins, to general laughter.
Dolphins Coach Don Shula, in a wheelchair, gave Obama a jersey with the number 72 emblazoned with the word "undefeated."
As he joked with members of the Dolphins, Obama noted that sports champions didn't start coming to the White House until the 1980s.
"Let's face it," Obama said. "This is also just a fun thing to do."
The die-hard Bears fan even took a joking shot at a more recent champion and current rival: "I even let the (Green Bay) Packers come a couple years ago, which was hard to do. ... So I decided that it was high time to pay tribute to the NFL's only perfect team."
David Jackson, USA TODAY