Editor’s note: This story was originally published in Sports Spectrum’s 25-year anniversary issue.
Roger Thomas Staubach. Winner. What more can you say?
Here’s a guy who had only one losing season in his lifetime. From Cincinnati’s Purcell High School to the New Mexico Military Institute to the Naval Academy to the Dallas Cowboys – his only sub .500 season was when injuries sank his senior season at Navy. And his winning percentage in the pros was a wave-worthy .746.
Speaking of the pros – remember “America’s Team?” He said he never liked that nickname for the Cowboys. Staubach, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985 and was ranked 29th on The Sporting News’ 100 Greatest Football Players of all-time list in 1999, felt it put undue pressure on him and his teammates. It also gave the opposition an open invitation to poke fun at these “cow pokes.”
And face it, he had enough on his mind just dodging Redskins and Steelers, two teams that were the Cowboys’ nemesis during his playing days. His elusiveness is where he earned the nickname “Roger The Dodger” and his fourth-quarter comebacks caused people to call him “Captain Comeback” after he led the Cowboys to 23 game-winning drives in the last quarter, with 17 in the final two minutes.
It seems like yesterday that we saw him on the field with Tom Landry, forming one of the best coach-quarterback duos of all time. But in reality it’s been more than three decades since No. 12 was last seen flinging footballs to receivers like Drew Pearson and Golden Richards and guiding the Cowboys to the Super Bowl.
His most memorable Super Bowl moment came in the 1971-72 season when Dallas beat the Miami Dolphins 24-3.
“In that game I completed a pass to Mike Ditka for a touchdown,” said Staubach, who led the Cowboys to four Super Bowls in the 1970s, winning four. “That was a lot of fun. Mike had given me a hard time earlier in the game. And Butch Johnson and I hooked up for a major catch in the game against Denver. It was a long touchdown pass and Butch made a great catch. Winning the first Super Bowl was by far the most satisfying.”
While playing in college for the Naval Academy, he won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and the UPI player of the year in 1963, each award recognizing the nation’s best college football player.
As a pro, he led the Dallas Cowboys to four Super Bowls in the 1970s, winning two and earning MVP in Super Bowl VI (Jan. 16, 1972), was selected to six Pro Bowls and threw for 22,700 yards, 153 touchdowns and rushed for 2,264 yards and 21 touchdowns in 11 seasons as a pro.
But Staubach’s most memorable career moment came in 1963 while at the Naval Academy.
“That was an important time for me,” he said. “And some of my teammates are my closest friends now. Tom Lynch was the captain of that team. Then coming here to Dallas and playing quarterback the year we won the Super Bowl – that kind of gave Dallas the crowning achievement after so many disappointments. Those were big highlights, the ’63 season, and ’71 in Dallas winning the Super Bowl.”
Faith and Family
Roger and his wife, Marianne, have been married for the same number of years the Super Bowl has been played – 44. They’ve stayed together by “enjoying each other in a love that is both physical and spiritual and that takes in respect and loyalty,” Roger said.
“Your faith can help make things work out. But it’s more than that. You’ve got to enjoy each other. You’ve got to be able to communicate and understand. Marriage isn’t a piece of cake – it takes work. But at the same time, you can’t ever lose love.”
Since the Staubachs have been together for nearly than four and a half decades, the little Staubachs aren’t so small any more. The roster includes their son Jeff, 34, their four daughters, Jennifer, 43, Michelle, 41, Stephanie, 40, and Amy, 29, their spouses and 13 grandchildren.
According to “Dad” Staubach, the key to raising his children was “trying to get them to understand that in life there is permanence through their faith. How we need to build up their faith in life is a big ingredient.”
“They’re going to have challenges. Yet on the significant issues they’re going to make better decisions because they’ve seen us make difficult decisions while keeping our priorities in line – living our faith as well as trying to convey things to them.”
Faith and Business
The life Roger lived after retiring from football in March of 1980 was a fast one. Years after retiring, he was still snapping up more than 100 speaking engagements a year – passing on many others. Until 2008, he oversaw the operations of the Staubach Company, a commercial real estate firm he began in 1977 while he was still playing and that operated in numerous U.S. cities and in various countries.
He sold the company in 2008 for $613 million and had the opportunity to earn another $100 million in incentives.
For fun and relaxation, he reads and watches sports. His daily Bible reading helps keep his Christian faith healthy. And some of his favorite athletes include “my daughters, who (were) very good soccer players, and my son, who (played) baseball.”
His own competitive drive came out during his weekly basketball workout that he had during the early days of his retirement, and his most consistent exercise was found in the Stair Master and the bike.
Just don’t ask him to pick out the color scheme for the living room. Staubach is color blind. But he’s not blind to the fact that Jesus Christ has made the difference in his life.
“Learning the Christian faith formed the answers for me,” he said in his book, Roger Staubach: Time Enough to Win. “It’s not like having a crutch, because the concept is sound. It’s a proven plan, not something made up. God put it together in His infinite wisdom by sending His Son here. I believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who died for our sins and came back from the dead on Sunday to give us our salvation. That’s what it’s all about.”
One of his favorite passages of Scripture reads, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (II Corinthians 4:8-9).
What an appropriate passage for a quarterback and what a firm foundation for a winner.
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