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White House honors national champion Alabama

WASHINGTON -- Bellowing out "Roll Tide," President Barack Obama on Wednesday welcomed Alabama to the White House for the fourth time since he became president and said he must have brought it some good luck.

Obama, sounding confident in his apparent positive influence as well as in the Crimson Tide's athletic prowess, said he'd like to welcome the team back in 2017 -- "but we've got this thing called term limits." He'll be out of office at this time next year after serving two terms.

Winning four national titles in seven years is historic, said Obama, who compared the feat to "winning a best-of-seven series, except you're playing 127 teams around the country. The last time a team went on this kind of run was in the 1940s. Back then, folks were still wearing leather helmets."

"I don't feel like anybody in a leather helmet would do too well trying to tackle Derrick Henry," he added, referring to the running back and Heisman Trophy winner who is entering the NFL draft. "Of course, even with modern helmets they didn't do too well tackling Derrick Henry."

Alabama came from behind to defeat Clemson in college football's national championship game in January.

Obama noted Henry's SEC record of more than 22,000 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns, but also gave credit for Alabama's "smothering defense" to center Ryan Kelly, defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson and linebacker Reggie Ragland.

Obama said the team isn't defined solely by its on-field performance. Alabama is first in the Southeastern Conference and third among top 25 teams in graduation rates, he said. The players have also volunteered hundreds of hours at retirement homes, hospitals and schools around Tuscaloosa.

Obama also commended coach Nick Saban for continuing to help Habitat for Humanity build homes to replace those that were destroy after a powerful tornado struck the Tuscaloosa area in 2011.

"Everybody recognizes excellence when they see it and nobody's had more sustained excellence as a football program at the collegiate level than the Alabama Crimson Tide," the president said. "Congratulations."