Roger Staubach: Football Star Turned Business Titan
To be a success in the NFL, quarterbacks need brains, a strong, accurate arm, mobility and a certain amount of courage. Roger Staubach - Hall of Fame passer for the Dallas Cowboys from 1969 until 1979 - displayed another skill which enabled him to become one of the best to play to position. Patience.
In 1969 Roger Staubach joined the Dallas Cowboys as a 27-year old rookie, became the starting quarterback in his third season in 1971, and for the next nine seasons, led the Dallas attack. The Cowboys played in six NFC Championship Games, won four of them, and also won Super Bowls VI and XII during Staubach's career.
Staubach grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of a salesman. He saw football as his opportunity for college. After being appointed to the Naval Academy, Staubach won the Heisman Trophy in 1963 during his Junior year. At the time, he was only the fourth junior to win the Heisman Trophy. Navy coach Wayne Hardin called him "the greatest quarterback Navy ever had." Staubach was one of the hottest prospects in college football in 1963. A splendid NFL career beckoned but Staubach had to finish his required service of four years with the armed forces. Most teams were scared off by his Naval commitments and he was not selected until the 10th round of the 1964 Draft. After being picked by the Cowboys, Staubach was forced to wait five years before breaking into the NFL in 1969 as a 27-year-old, not-so-young rookie. "I never thought we would see this Heisman Trophy winner in a Cowboys' uniform." remarked head coach Tom Landry. Staubach kept up with the Cowboys' playbook and attended the team's training camps every year during his annual leave from the Navy (one year served in Vietnam). He threw his first competitive pass for Dallas in 1969, and although Staubach did not become a regular starter for Landry's side until 1971, he showed flashes of brilliance during his rookie year.
Staubach managed to do more than just survive his initiation into the NFL as he fired one touchdown pass and scrambled for 140 yards. His first scoring toss as a professional went to Lance Rentzel and Staubach remembers it well. "I remember I was on the run when I made that throw," the rookie said. "I was just trying to get rid of it. It wasn't a great pass, but Lance made a nice play on it and scored." It was the start of a career which saw Staubach become the most exciting quarterback of the seventies, with Staubach largely responsible for the Cowboys becoming known as "America's Team". Roger led Dallas to four Super Bowls in games VI, X, XII and XIII, losing on X and XIII to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two Super Bowl losses marked one of the few occasions when Staubach was unable to launch one of his famed last-minute comebacks.
During his career, Staubach developed a reputation for pulling out victories when defeat looked inevitable. His refusal to give up lost causes meant he led the Cowboys to 23 come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter. Seventeen of those comebacks came in the final two minutes of games. "Roger never knew when the game was over," said Dallas tight end Billy Joe Dupree. Staubach developed the reputation for making the big play. His ability to bring his team from behind was legendary and earned him the nickname 'Captain Comeback.'
"Roger Staubach might be the best combination of a passer, an athlete and a leader ever to play in the NFL," said Cowboy's head coach Tom Landry. Many sports fans and professional reporters consider Staubach one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL along with Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana. When he took over as a starter midway through the 1971 season, Dallas was faltering with a 4-3 record. Staubach got the nod and he went on to pass for 1,882 yards and 15 touchdowns, winning the passing title with a 104.8 quarterback rating. In the next seven seasons, Staubach took the Cowboys to five NFC championship games and another three Super Bowls. Making Staubach particularly dangerous was his ability to scramble out of trouble. His 410 career rushes netted him 2,264 yards and 20 touchdowns. "He was a great competitor," said Ted Marchibroda, former head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. "Staubach could do it more ways than most quarterbacks."
While others appreciated Staubach's neat footwork, Tom Landry was not so impressed. "Coach Landry wasn't happy with my scrambling," the quarterback revealed. "It caused a running feud between us. But I put up with his play calling and he put up with my scrambling." Staubach tried to have more of a say in the Dallas offense. After winning Super Bowl VI against the Miami Dolphins Staubach said, "I'm going to study films more than ever, but it will be hard to convince coach Landry to let me call my own plays after we won 10 games in a row with him calling them." The friction between two tough and intelligent leaders helped spark a dynamic game.
Staubach won further NFL passing titles in 1973, 1978 and 1979, was named to six Pro Bowls, and selected as to the All-NFC team four times. He was also the most valuable player for Super Bowl VI and provided the offensive spark in a defense-dominated victory in Super Bowl XII.
Leadership remains one of the most outstanding qualities for which Staubach is remembered. "I coached the College All-Star game for 10 years," said Otto Graham, himself a great passer with the Cleveland Browns. "Of all the quarterbacks in that game, Roger was the best I ever had. He was a great leader - that's the most important thing for a quarterback."
In 1970,while playing football for the Dallas Cowboys, Roger launched his real estate career. As a diversified commercial real estate company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, the Staubach Company helped pioneer the concept of tenant representation. Again Staubach marked himself and his endeavors by becoming one of the leading players in North Texas commercial real estate, expanding his company's business to include finance, design and construction, property and portfolio management, along with other services.
Of Roger Staubach's professional career with the Dallas Cowboys, not much more needs to be said other than that he proved himself to be one of the finest quarterbacks in history in terms of both performance and team leadership. Deservedly, he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, the first year he became eligible for this honor. "He had an air about him," said the late Sid Luckman, a Hall of Fame quarterback with the Chicago Bears. "You knew someone special was on the field." When Staubach retired after the 1979 season he was the highest ranked passer of all time with 1,685 pass completions for 22,700 yards and 153 touchdowns. All this in only eight seasons as a starter.
"There wasn't a player on the Cowboys who didn't look to him and think, 'As long as we have Roger we have a chance to win,'" said one NFL coach. Staubach was also known for the way he conducted himself off the field. "His was the type of image you wanted in the game for young people," Landry once said. Part of that is Staubach's vibrant Catholic faith. Another aspect is his family life: he married a girl from his hometown and is the proud father of five.
Looking back on his outstanding career, Staubach admitted it was hard having to wait so long to get his NFL chance. "Patience isn't one of my overwhelming qualities," he said. "I was frustrated." When asked how he would like to be remembered, Staubach replied: "As a pretty darn consistent quarterback." Fans of the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL will remember Roger Staubach as much more than that, and rightly so.
2nd Classman in 1960
Staubach's 1961 Yearbook picture. He was a Naval Academy Prep student.
The Staubach File
February 5, 1942
Naval Academy 1961-65
Dallas Cowboys 1969-79
College Career Highlights
- Was the starting quarterback for the 1960 Bronco football team that went 9-1.
- Won the Heisman Trophy while quarterbacking for the Navy football team in 1963.
- All-American recipient in 1964 and 1965 while with the Navy.
Professional Career Highlights
- Won two Super Bowls while at the helm as quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys (1972 and 1978).
- 1971 NFL Player of the Year.
- 1972 Super Bowl MVP.
- Led the NFC in passing 5 times (1971, 73, 77, 78, and 79).
- Led NFL in passing 4 times (1971, 73, 78, and 79).
- Selected six times for the NFL Pro Bowl.
- Inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
Painting in Cahoon Armory Lobby, by V. Wells