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Wakefield Preps for Obama Visit

Big doings at Wakefield today, with President Obama scheduled to deliver a national back-to-school address at the Arlington County school. The football players wore their jerseys to school for the occasion.

“If we’re lucky, we might even get a picture,” half-joked Coach Keith Powell, who ducked into a bathroom to talk on his phone this morning, escaping the noisy hallways. A presidential visit on the already chaotic first day of school will do that.

Powell has been working political back channels to try to make that photograph happen: Senior linebacker Tim Spicer is involved in student government at Wakefield.

“I keep telling him, hey, put in a word for the football team and have him meet us out back for a picture,” Powell said.

The Warriors thought Powell was kidding when he told them last Thursday Obama was coming to their place. Secret Service and other federal officials scoured the campus Monday, limiting the football players to one locker room entrance and blocking off access to certain parts of the building.

Powell was shut out of his equipment room, so some players went without certain gear or borrowed from teammates. The players also had to take their locks home, presumably to make it easier for the security detail to check the facility.

The football players are excited, Powell said, but he wants them to fully understand the magnitude of the visit and how rare this is for a high school to host a president.

“It’s one of those things that happens to you at 17, and you don’t realize it’s such an amazing thing until you turn 30,” said Powell, 41. “When I was winning [two] state championships at Hampton High, I didn’t think anything of it. And 20 years later I was thinking, that was phenomenal.”

Powell said, he, too, is caught up in the moment this morning at Wakefield, where he is in his third season as head coach and served as an assistant from 1996 to 2001. Wakefield has not posted a winning season since 1983.

“This is very emotional,” said Powell, who is black. “I can tell my 10-year-old son, guess what, you can be the president. In my lifetime, I never thought I’d see an African-American president. I can’t really put it into words. He’s coming here with a lot of adversity, a lot of people fighting against him thinking it’s a political move. I tell my guys that on Friday night, you should play for the fact that you play for a special school. The president thought enough to come visit your school, and you should lift it up and play like you’ve never played before. We’ve been put on the map by President Obama. Let’s get on the map and be known for more than one thing.

“I’m trying to change the culture at Wakefield High School. He’s changing it for the whole world.”

By Preston Williams  |  September 8, 2009; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  AAA National District , Football , Northern Region  
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