Staubach, Roger (1942-)

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Staubach, Roger (1942-)

In his eleven-year career with the Dallas Cowboys from 1969 to 1979, quarterback Roger Staubach frequently engaged in last-second heroics to help his team to two Super Bowl victories and four National Football Conference titles.

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Staubach played quarterback for the United States Naval Academy, where he won the 1963 Heisman Trophy, awarded to the top player in college football each season. Staubach was drafted by the Cowboys in the tenth round of the 1964 NFL draft, but first served in the navy for four years before beginning his professional career.

After Staubach began his career with the Cowboys in 1969, he played sparingly during his first several seasons, when Dallas Coach Tom Landry was using Craig Morton as the team's starting quarterback. In 1971, Dallas had suffered a disappointing 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V, and the following season, Landry decided that he would give Staubach the opportunity to compete for the job of starting quarterback. At the end of preseason, Landry decided to alternate Staubach and Morton at the position during 1971-72, a situation which did not seem to work out particularly well, as the team lacked cohesion in the early part of the regular season. However, in mid-season, Landry made Staubach the starting quarterback, and he responded by leading the Cowboys to the Super Bowl. Staubach earned the Most Valuable Player Award in Super Bowl VI in 1972, as his Dallas Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins by a score of 24-3. Staubach completed 12 out of the 19 passes that he attempted, for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

Staubach had little chance to savor his success, however, for he badly separated his right shoulder in a game the following preseason, which required surgery and caused him to miss much of the 1972 regular season. Staubach's injury came while he tried to fight through several defenders in an attempt to score, a style unlike that of most other quarterbacks, who generally try as hard as possible to avoid physical contact on the playing field.

Staubach was able to return later that season, however, and in the 1972 playoffs, he delivered a performance that defined much of the rest of his career and earned him the title "Captain Comeback." He entered a first-round game against the San Francisco 49ers with his team trailing at the end of the third quarter and the 49ers already beginning their celebration. Staubach, however, led the Cowboys to two dramatic touchdowns in the last two minutes and an improbable come-from-behind 30-28 victory. Despite Staubach's heroics, the Cowboys lost that season's NFC title game 26-3 against the Washington Redskins.

The Cowboys reached the Super Bowl three times in the late 1970s with Staubach at quarterback. Twice, in Super Bowls X and XIII, they lost to Pittsburgh teams that were considered by many to beamong the greatest of all time. However, the Cowboys defeated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII in 1978 by a 27-10 score, giving Staubach his second Super Bowl victory. In that game, Staubach threw a 45-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to give the Cowboys an insurmountable 20-3 lead. During this period, the Cowboys came to be known as "America's Team."

Staubach retired following the 1979 season, despite the fact that at 37, he was still playing at a very high level. The quarterback, however, cited a desire to spend more time with his family, a declining enthusiasm for football, and concern over the possibility of permanent injuries, as he had already suffered numerous concussions and a variety of other physical problems as a result of his tenacious style of play.

Staubach was enshrined in the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio in 1985. He was the leading passer in the NFL during four of his 11 seasons, and was an All-NFC selection four times during his career. "Captain Comeback" also managed to lead the Cowboys to 21 come-from-behind victories in the fourth period, living up to his nickname.

—Jason George

Further Reading:

"Roster of Enshrinees: Roger Staubach." April 1999.

St. John, Bob. The Landry Legend: Grace Under Pressure. Dallas, Word Publishing, 1989.

Staubach, Roger, with Frank Luksa. Time Enough to Win. Waco, Texas, Word Books, 1980.