When a man who sat next to “the button” for eight years comes over and recognizes you, wanting to shake your hand, you do it. Such is the life of Jets quarterback Mark Brunell.
In the minutes before the Jets and the Cowboys kicked off Sunday night, former President George W. Bush walked onto the field amidst raucous cheers from the 78,000 plus fans on hand for the season opener. The former president was on hand to help mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks, joining a plethora of first responders and military dignitaries who took to the field in the pre-game ceremonies. It was a moment reminiscent of when President Bush threw out the first pitch in a 2001 World Series game — a strike right down the middle of the plate — leading to lusty cheering from New Yorkers still very much reeling from the terrorist attacks over a month earlier.
But walking off the field, as he was waiving to the crowd, President Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush stopped to talk to only one person on the Jets sideline. Brunell was only too eager to see the Bushes once again.
“I sort of knew where he would be walking by and stood there,” Brunell told Metro. “He just walked by and stopped and we shook hands. It was all very brief.”
But not so brief that NBC cameras didn’t pick-up the brief exchange between the quarterback and the former leader of the free world.
During his second term in office, President Bush had first met Brunell in Jacksonville, Fla. during a political fundraiser at the Jaguars stadium. Brunell was the starting quarterback for the team and he attended the event as a supporter of the then president. It was a brief meeting, marked by small talk and a picture, but Bush gave Brunell a shout-out during the speech after the meeting.
Since then, he also met the president in Washington D.C., when he was playing for the Redskins, while attending a breakfast at the White House.
Since then, he also met President George H.W. Bush, the patriarch of the political dynasty, who served in office from 1989-1993, and President George W. Bush’s brother Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, who served eight years as Florida’s governor.
And while Brunell brushes aside the fact that one of the world’s most powerful men clearly recognized him and paused for a moment amidst the cheers to shake hands and greet him — “He’s a politician, he recognizes everybody” — there is still that knowledge that he has a connection with someone who once sat behind the desk in the Oval Office.
“It was neat and I look forward to seeing him again someday,” Brunell said. “Whether you agree with his politics or not, you have to agree that he was a good man. It was nice to shake his hand again and just see him.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.