WASHINGTON -- The nation's capital hailed the Super Bowl-champion Washington Redskins Wednesday with 600,000 fans swarming to a downtown victory parade and President Reagan congratulating the team at the White House.
Braving 38-degree temperatures and overcast skies, fans perched on the rooftops of downtown buildings and packed a parade route ordinarily reserved for presidential inaugurations. Many fans wore Redskins burgundy and gold while others sported full Indian headdress and war paint.
'What else is there to say but, 'Hail to the Redskins,'' Reagan told the team during a 15-minute ceremony on the South Lawn. 'You know, I noticed some of your fans painted their faces half red and half yellow. Some of them wore hog noses; some even climbed lamp posts. My staff told me that wouldn't be very presidential. (But) make no mistake about it, I'm just as enthusiastic as your fans.'
Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard presented the President with a team jersey emblazoned with 'Reagan' and '1.' Quarterback Doug Williams, the Most Valuable Player in Sunday's 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos, handed Reagan a football.
Reagan took the ball and threw a tight spiral to wide receiver Ricky Sanders, who was sprinting across the damp grass.
Reagan, a former sportscaster probably best remembered as an actor for his portrayal of Notre Dame football player George Gipp in the movie 'Knute Rockne -- All American,' often welcomes championship teams in professional and amateur sports. Reagan lettered in football while attending Eureka (Ill.) College.
Reagan singled out Williams, who passed for a Super Bowl-record 340 yards and a record-tying four touchdowns, for special praise.
Reagan said Williams delivered 'one of the most inspiring performances displayed by any quarterback in football history,' adding, 'Way to go, Doug. You recently showed the world how to overcome adversity and did it with style and grace.'
Police estimated the crowd at 600,000. Two women fainted in the crush to hear Williams speak at the District Building. Fire department officials Wednesday night said a total of 23 spectators and four police officers received minor injuries.
D.C. police reported making 31 arrests during the celebration, most for disorderly conduct and vending violations.
Williams spoke to the throng from a platform at the end of the nearly two-hour parade.
Sprinkled with confetti, Williams hobbled to the platform with crutches, still ailing from a knee injury he suffered during the first quarter.
'I'm just glad to be a part of the world-champion Washington Redskins and be a part of this city,' Williams said as the crowd chanted 'Doug, Doug, Doug.'
'I consider myself a real, real lucky person because, first of all, two years ago when I became a free agent there was only one football team that gave me an opportunity to play and that was the Washington Redskins.'
Williams, 32, became the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl.
Defensive tackle Dave Butz, at 37 the NFL's oldest player, told the crowd: 'I'm the only one qualified to say this, but we came, we saw and we kicked their butts.'
Coach Joe Gibbs, holding the Super Bowl trophy, added, 'It took all 45 guys to get this and all of you fans -- all of us together.'
The Redskins players and coaches motored down the one-mile parade route in tourist buses, some waving and others holding up their index finger signifying 'No. 1.' The team's theme song, 'Hail to the Redskins,' blared from speakers throughout the festivities.
Before the parade, the team met congressional leaders on Capitol Hill. At a reception in Mayor Marion Barry's office after the parade, Williams posed with Barry holding a cake in the quarterback's likeness.
Federal and city workers received paid leave to attend the parade and some local school children were given time off to take part in the festivities.