The former quarterback who played his way into Trump’s inner circle (2024)

The video, posted to YouTube, went viral immediately. McEntee appeared on asegmenton CNN with Jeannie Moos and UConn’s sports information director at the time, Mike Enright, recalled getting media requests from as far as away as England. A year after the video was posted, McEntee’s father met Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, at a fundraiser. Rodgers asked if he was related totheJohnny McEntee, the trick-shot quarterback. Today, the video has more than 7 million views.

“Your son is too good to be true,” Schiller once told McEntee’s father.

McEntee graduated with a communications degree and spent the next summer working out with a coach in San Diego, but didn’t catch on with any NFL teams. He flirted with joining the military, even going so far as to bring a few brochures home to his family. “We were freaked out,” his father said. “We were relieved when he went to New York and started working for Fox.” Added Teggart: “Joining the campaign, I think that was his way of serving, of having a job that meant something.”

Over the course of the campaignand in the White House, McEntee was mentored by Schiller, who began working full-time as Trump director of security in 2004.

On the campaign trail, it was Schiller who taught McEntee to understand the complexities of Trump’s life and anticipate his needs, said one former campaign and transition official. That ranged from ensuring Trump’s safety to making sure he had a black sharpie in hand to sign autographs at rallies or dinners outside the White House bubble. It meant learning which TV channels Trump preferred to watch during different times of the day, or how to deliver the briefing book or his favorite newspapers to the residence in the morning.

The former quarterback who played his way into Trump’s inner circle (1)

With Schiller gone as part of the shakeup prompted by John Kelly’s arrival as chief of staff, it is now McEntee (left) who travels with Trump | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“Your son is too good to be true,” Schiller once told McEntee’s father. Even after Schiller left the White House, he still had high praise for McEntee, his protégé. “Everyone loves him and he is a good young man,” Schiller said.

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But with Schiller gone as part of the shakeup prompted by John Kelly’s arrival as chief of staff, it is now McEntee who travels with Trump when he goes to dinner at the Trump International Hotel or hits the links at one of his golf clubs. Just last week, McEntee spent Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago with Trump and his family, working behind the scenes. The rigors of the job—the travel, long hours and few days off—have kept McEntee from having much of a personal life in Washington. Friends say he isn’t dating anyone right now, and many nights he grabs Shake Shack for dinner because it’s close to his apartment. One of his big sources of entertainment comes from reading and selecting action movies like “Armageddon”to watch on Air Force One trips, White House aides said.

“On a football team, you understand that you represent a brand and a team, that you’re part of something larger than yourself” — Reggie Love

The itinerant lifestyle, though, is one a young former college athlete is equipped to handle. Reggie Love, who served as Obama’s body man after playing football and basketball at Duke, suggested that the schedule he kept with Obama was reminiscent of the days in college he spent training, going to class, practicing, studying and traveling. And as a quarterback, Love said, McEntee is especially well-suited for the job, having directed a team and a huddle. “He’s in charge of managing relationships and positions and clearly communicating and articulating and motivating a vision that looks and sounds like what your boss is after,” Love said. “On a football team, you understand that you represent a brand and a team, that you’re part of something larger than yourself.”

For years, McEntee’s father has thought his son would like to open his own business one day, but he is now so devoted to his boss that he wouldn’t be surprised if he follows him back to the Trump Organization, whether it’s in three or seven years. As for the perpetual storms of controversy that swirl around the White House, McEntee’s father said that his son dismisses all of it. “I’ll ask him about something I read and he says, ‘Why would they write that?’” the elder McEntee said. “He just wants to help make America great again.”

Recently, McEntee’s father asked his son if he had ever talked to Trump about his famous trick shot video, and he was surprised to learn that his son hadn’t. “I thought for sure, because it was so cool, they would have,” he said. “But he never brought it up. That’s Johnny.”

Nancy Cook is a White House reporter for POLITICO.

Ben Strauss is the co-author ofIndentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA, winner of the 2017 PEN/ESPN award for literary sports writing.

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The former quarterback who played his way into Trump’s inner circle (2024)

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