Staubach, Roger Thomas

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STAUBACH, Roger Thomas

(b. 5 February 1942 in Cincinnati, Ohio), football player who won the Heisman Trophy at the United States Naval Academy and quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl wins, gaining a reputation for leading his teams to thrilling come-from-behind victories.

Staubach was the only child of Robert Joseph Staubach, a sales manager, and Elizabeth Smyth. He attended Purcell High School in Cincinnati, and was an all-around athlete, playing football, basketball, and baseball. The popular Staubach was his senior class president at Purcell, and received numerous athletic scholarship offers from colleges and universities. Preferring football, he chose the United States Naval Academy over Notre Dame, which offered only a basketball scholarship. However, Staubach first had to attend a military preparatory school in New Mexico for a year in order to qualify academically for the Naval Academy.

At Annapolis, Staubach began playing football during his sophomore year. As a junior in the autumn of 1963, he quarterbacked Navy to a 9–1 regular-season record and a berth in the Cotton Bowl, where the Midshipmen lost to the University of Texas. Nonetheless, a nationwide panel of sportswriters and sportscasters voted Staubach the winner of the Heisman Trophy, given annually to college football's top player. Staubach was sidelined with an ankle injury for most of his senior season, but still had his number 12 football jersey retired at the Naval Academy when he graduated with a B.S. in June 1965. He had also starred in varsity baseball while there. Staubach married Marianne Jeanne Hoobler on 4 September 1965.

Despite the fact that Staubach was committed to a four-year tour of duty in the navy after graduation, the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL) risked a tenth-round draft pick on the star quarterback in 1964. In December 1965 that risk paid off when the Cowboys signed Staubach to a contract assuring he would play in Dallas if and when he ever decided to enter professional football. While serving in Vietnam and Pensacola, Florida, Staubach continued to work out, and during the summer of 1968 he even participated in the Cowboys' training camp while on leave. "I had a fine camp," wrote Staubach in the foreword to The Dallas Cowboys: An Illustrated History. "I knew then I was going to play pro ball."

By 1969 Staubach was finished with his military commitment, and was officially a member of the Cowboys. However, he had to wait two more years before he was a contributor. Staubach spent most of his time on the sideline in 1969 and 1970 as Craig Morton quarterbacked the team. But in 1971 Dallas head coach Tom Landry began alternating Morton and Staubach at quarterback, and Staubach won the job outright midway through the season. On 16 January 1972 the Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins 24–3 in Super Bowl VI, and Staubach was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

That solidified Staubach as the brightest star of "America's Team" during the 1970s. Dallas returned to three more Super Bowls with Staubach at the helm, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowls X and XIII, but beating Morton and the Denver Broncos 27–10 in Super Bowl XII on 15 January 1978. Nearly as dangerous running the ball as throwing it, Staubach was named to the Pro Bowl five times, and was the NFL's highest-rated passer four times.

Staubach had a reputation as a committed Christian and "straight arrow" off the field, but he was a fierce competitor on it. His never-say-die attitude resulted in twenty-three come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter, fourteen of which were in the last two minutes or overtime. Three wins in particular sealed Staubach's nickname of "Captain Comeback." On 23 December 1972, after being sidelined during the regular season with a separated shoulder, Staubach replaced an ineffective Morton in the fourth quarter of a playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers and led the visiting Cowboys from a 28–13 deficit to a 30–28 victory. The unlikely turnaround featured Staubach touchdown passes to Billy Parks and Ron Sellers in the final two minutes. "It was the most unbelievable comeback, because we were totally out of it," said Staubach years later. "There wasn't even a pulse at one time during that game."

On 28 December 1975 Staubach engineered a ninety-one-yard drive late in another playoff contest against the Minnesota Vikings, which included the conversion of a fourth and sixteen play when he passed to Drew Pearson at midfield, and a subsequent fifty-yard "Hail Mary" touchdown pass to Pearson in the last seconds. "I've never been in a stadium that was so quiet," was how Staubach described Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium after the touchdown that earned Dallas a 17–14 victory. "It was a weird moment, and I think that particular play was the biggest single play that I've ever been a part of."

Finally, on 16 December 1979, in what would turn out to be Staubach's last NFL win, he spearheaded two comebacks in one game as the Cowboys turned a 17–0 deficit into a 21–17 lead, and a 34–21 deficit into a 35–34 victory over the Washington Redskins in the regular-season finale. Staubach threw touchdown passes to Ron Springs and Tony Hill in the closing minutes. "Up to that point I felt sure the high point had already been reached somewhere in my career," Staubach reflected later. "But that one was like no other game I've ever been a part of. It was, to put it simply, the most thrilling sixty minutes I ever spent on a football field."

A few months later, on 31 March 1980, the thirty-eight year-old Staubach fought back tears as he announced his retirement from football. He had taken his share of hard hits over the years, and decided to move on to the next part of his life, which included running a real estate company in Dallas and spending more time with his wife Marianne and their five children. In 1983 Staubach was inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor, and in 1985 he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Staubach's post-career memoir is Time Enough to Win (1980). More information about Staubach's career can be found in Richard Whittingham, The Dallas Cowboys: An Illustrated History (1981); Carlton Stowers, Dallas Cowboys: The First Twenty-five Years (1984); and Jeff Guinn, Dallas Cowboys: The Authorized Pictorial History (1996). Further quotes and highlights are available in the NFL Films video The Greatest Moments in Dallas Cowboy History (1987).

Jack Styczynski