Once upon a time, the Dallas Cowboys were called “America’s Team.”
There is some debate about whether the franchise is still known as such today, especially since the ‘boys have not won a world title since the 1990s.
However, in the 1970s, hardly a year went by when Dallas wasn’t playing in a Super Bowl.
Between 1966 and 1978, the Cowboys played in two NFL Championship games and five Super Bowls.
The team was a perfect mix of ruffians, scoundrels, bruisers, playmakers, and loveable hayseeds led by head coach Tom Landry.
The on-field general for Dallas during their remarkable Super Bowl run was quarterback Roger Staubach.
— DCStarMagazine (@DCStarMagazine) March 10, 2016
Staubach actually came from a military background in the Navy where he won a Heisman Trophy.
After limited playing time during his first two years in Dallas, Staubach led the organization to two World Championships before retiring.
As he was ending his playing career, Staubach became a businessman and spent the next several decades building his real estate company into a multi-billion dollar business.
This is the story of “Captain America,” Roger Staubach.
Early Life in Ohio
Roger Thomas Staubach entered this world on February 5, 1942, in Cincinnati, Ohio.
QB Roger Staubach
2× Super Bowl champion (VI, XII) Super Bowl MVP (VI)
NFL Man of the Year (1978)
Second-team All-Pro (1971)
6× Pro Bowl
4× NFL passer rating leader (1971, 1973, 1978, 1979)
NFL 1970s All-Decade Team
NFL Hall of Famer#cowboys #nfl #dallascowboys pic.twitter.com/WPvOHVBIeS
— Every Cowboy Ever (@ecowboysdaily) May 10, 2022
He was an only child who lived in a region known for its varied sporting opportunities.
Young Roger took to baseball and football. Initially, though, it didn’t look like he would be a future hall-of-fame athlete.
When he was a student at Purcell High School in Cincinnati, Staubach was primarily a baseball player.
He was a solid pitcher for the Purcell team and one of the football coaches noticed his arm.
The coach convinced Staubach to join the football team and play quarterback.
Staubach joined the squad, but it was a single pass in his senior year that cemented his fate.
In his first game as the starting quarterback, Staubach led a comeback victory against a rival by throwing a touchdown pass to win.
“It was the most important touchdown I ever threw in my life,” he said. “If we didn’t win that game, (the other quarterback) would be the starting quarterback, and he’d be speaking to you. I loved being the quarterback. It changed my life. Girls liked me more being the quarterback.”
Years later, Staubach would be known as a signal caller who could also scramble.
However, during his prep days, running the pigskin as a quarterback was done only as a last resort.
Occasionally, though, Staubach would take off running simply because he thought he could.
“I ran a naked boot around the left side off a fake power sweep to the right,” remembered Staubach about a game during high school. “I didn’t tell anybody, I just kind of did it. In my mind, it was the right time to do it.”
Staubach Joins the Navy
After graduating from high school, Staubach wanted to enlist in the Naval Academy.
In order to prepare for his military career, Staubach first enrolled at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico.
Before a famous career at Navy (Heisman Trophy) and with the Dallas Cowboys, many have no idea that Roger Staubach played JUCO football at New Mexico Military Institute. pic.twitter.com/Ozq8xDMXY8
— Brad Hoiseth (@BradHoiseth) August 17, 2020
During his time in Roswell, Staubach played football, baseball, and basketball for the Broncos.
He continued to play quarterback and passed for a then-school-record 1,294 yards during the 1960–61 school year.
While leading the Broncos to a 9-1 record, Staubach also passed for nine scores and rushed for nine more touchdowns.
After the football season, Staubach averaged 12.4 points per game for the hoops team, helping NMMI to a JuCo title.
On the diamond, Staubach played in the outfield and also pitched for the Broncos.
The following year, he transferred to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Staubach was the second-string quarterback entering the 1962 season but was elevated during Navy’s fourth game of the year.
Midshipman head coach Wayne Hardin inserted Staubach out of desperation that day as Cornell University was shutting down the Navy offense.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 21, 2015
In full command, Staubach proceeded to pass for two touchdowns and run for another as he helped the Midshipmen to a convincing 41-0 win.
Then, during the final week of the year, Staubach started in the annual Army/Navy game.
The coin toss was completed by President John F. Kennedy and Staubach led Navy to a 34-14 blowout.
As a sophomore, Staubach passed for 966 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions.
He also earned his “Roger the Dodger” moniker by scrambling for 265 yards and seven more scores.
In 1963, Staubach led Navy to a 9-2 record that included wins over Michigan, the third-ranked University of Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Army.
The Midshipmen’s victory over the Fighting Irish would be their last such win until 2007.
Staubach threw for 1,702 yards, seven touchdowns, seven interceptions, and ran for 371 yards with another nine scores.
His leadership and command of the offense were evident. Staubach became one of the most celebrated college quarterbacks in the nation.
At the end of the ’63 season, Staubach was awarded the Heisman Trophy, the Walter Camp Memorial Trophy, and the Maxwell Award for leading Navy to a number two overall ranking.
Navy QB Roger Staubach and his Heisman, December 1963. pic.twitter.com/z4FMSJ9D1X
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) December 11, 2021
Then, in the Cotton Bowl against number one Texas, Staubach set game records for most completions (21) and passing yards (228).
Unfortunately, the Longhorns battered the Midshipmen, 28-6.
Just when it looked like Navy had all the tools to repeat their 1963 success, Staubach suffered a foot injury in the first week of the 1964 season and was out for the next month.
By the time he returned, the Midshipmen were a mess and would end the year 3-6-1.
In limited action, Staubach still passed for 1,131 yards, four touchdowns, and 10 picks.
During his collegiate career, Staubach passed for 3,799 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions.
Roger Staubach at Navy, where he would win the Heisman Trophy in 1963 pic.twitter.com/k6yp3ycrFB
— Sports Days Past (@SportsDaysPast) September 5, 2018
He also rushed for 635 yards and 18 more touchdowns.
Staubach received the Academy’s Thompson Trophy Cup all three years and also received the Naval Academy Athletic Association Sword in 1965.
The Academy retired Staubach’s number 12 during his graduation, and in 1981, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
NFL Draft and Navy Commitment
In 2016, the Department of Defense wrote a new policy allowing service academy graduates the opportunity to begin playing professional sports after graduation if the athlete has an offer from a pro sports team.
The policy allows such athletes to finish their service in the reserves rather than on active duty.
Roger Staubach gave up 4 years of his NFL prime to serve his country. He volunteered to go to Vietnam… And yeah, he's absolutely one of the 10 best QBs ever. pic.twitter.com/Yp95Oux9LR
— Ian O'Connor (@Ian_OConnor) December 28, 2019
Staubach didn’t have the benefit of such a policy when he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1965.
He was committed to serving on active duty for four more years.
That didn’t stop the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and NFL’s Dallas Cowboys from drafting Staubach in 1964.
Since he was four years removed from his high school graduation, Staubach was eligible (under NFL rules) to be selected before he completed his senior year.
The Cowboys liked what they saw in Staubach and selected him with the 129th overall pick of the 10th round of the ’64 draft.
Essentially, Staubach was a “future” selection, which meant that the Cowboys held his rights while he was in the Navy.
Dallas’s general manager at the time, Tex Schramm, worked out a deal with Staubach that he would spend time with the team when he was on leave. He would then join the organization when he was done with his military service commitment in 1969.
Roger Staubach. United States Navy. pic.twitter.com/gZ3eOjj1nC
— Honest☘️Larry (@HonestLarry1) November 11, 2021
Between 1966 and 1967, Staubach served a tour of duty as a supply officer at the Chu Lai Base Area in Vietnam.
When he returned to the States, Staubach prepared for his future career by playing for various service teams and coaching a naval team in Florida.
In 1968, Staubach used his leave time to attend the Cowboys’ rookie training camp and brought Dallas’s playbook back with him when he returned to the Navy.
The following year, Staubach’s time in the service concluded, He was a free man.
He joined the Cowboys for their 1969 training camp, ready to compete as a 27-year-old rookie.
At the time of the 1964 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys weren’t a good football team.
The franchise started in 1960 and won just 13 games in four seasons.
By the time Staubach arrived in 1969, the organization had turned things around and already played in two NFL Championship games, losing both.
Dallas went 12-2 in 1968 and lost to Cleveland in the Conference playoffs.
The Cowboys welcomed Staubach in ’69 along with rookie running back Calvin Hill.
Craig Morton was Dallas’s starting quarterback that year after having taken over for the retired “Dandy” Don Meredith.
With Morton behind center, the Cowboys won 11 games and lost again to Cleveland in the playoffs.
— ᑭᖇO ᖴOOTᗷᗩᒪᒪ ᒍOᑌᖇᑎᗩᒪ 🏈 (@NFL_Journal) November 11, 2022
Staubach had exactly one start and passed for 421 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions, and rushed for 60 yards and a score.
In 1970, Staubach started three times, passing for 542 yards, two touchdowns, and eight picks, and running for another 221 yards.
Dallas won 10 games before beating Detroit and San Francisco in the playoffs to reach Super Bowl V.
The Cowboys were leading at the half but ultimately lost the game when Baltimore Colts’ kicker Jim O’Brien booted a 32-yard field goal to win 16-13.
Staubach Gets His Shot
For the first half of the 1971 season, Landry alternated Morton and Staubach continually and the Cowboys were sitting at 4-3 by Week 8.
Before playing the St. Louis Cardinals in Week 9, Landry decided to name Staubach as the starter for the remainder of the season.
— Ken Gelman (@kengfunk) June 26, 2022
“Captain America” was born that day as Staubach led Dallas to victory against the Cards and never lost again in 1971.
In his first season as a starter, Staubach passed for 1,882 yards, 15 touchdowns, and four interceptions, and had a career-high 343 rushing yards and two more touchdowns.
Furthermore, Staubach led the NFL in several statistical categories including quarterback rating (104.8). He also earned his first Pro Bowl nod and a place on the second-team All-Pro list.
Roger received the Bert Bell Award as the Player of the Year in the NFL as well.
After ending the regular season 11-3, the Cowboys beat Minnesota in the Divisional round and the Niners in the NFC Championship.
Dallas returned to the Super Bowl and faced the Miami Dolphins.
Today in 1972, Roger Staubach earns MVP honors as the Cowboys soundly defeat the Dolphins 24-3 in Super Bowl VI. pic.twitter.com/zMucZ3OfWP
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) January 16, 2020
This time, it wasn’t even close as Staubach passed for 119 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 18 more yards in the 24-3 win.
Staubach became the MVP of Super Bowl VI (the first player to win the Heisman and Super Bowl MVP). He also tied a then-Super Bowl record with two touchdown passes.
Staubach was ready to pick up where he left off in 1972 until he separated his shoulder and was done for most of the regular season.
Morton took over and guided Dallas to a 10-4 record.
During the Divisional playoffs against San Francisco, the Cowboys were down 28-13 as the fourth quarter began.
Landry was desperate and subbed in Staubach for Morton.
With a calm demeanor and will to win, Staubach helped Dallas claw their way back and cut the deficit to 28-23 with less than two minutes remaining.
50 Years Ago Today
° 1972 NFC DIVISIONAL°
Toni Fritsch's dazzling trick onside kick enables the final march. pic.twitter.com/2dQ1iwXF3T
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) December 23, 2022
Cowboys kicker Tony Fritsch then pulled off a sneaky onside kick and Dallas regained possession.
Shortly thereafter, Staubach completed his second touchdown in 90 seconds to pull off an upset victory, 30-28, leading teammates to dub him “Captain Comeback.”
One week later, Washington ended the Cowboys’ season in the NFC Championship game, 26-3.
Staubach Takes Over
In 1973, Landry named Staubach the starting quarterback. He continued to be the starter for the remainder of his career.
Now fully healthy, Staubach threw for 2,428 yards, an NFL-best 23 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and ran for 250 yards and three touchdowns.
He also led the league in passer rating with 94.6.
The Cowboys won 10 games and lost to Minnesota in the NFC title game.
Dallas missed the postseason in 1974 while Staubach passed for more than 2,500 yards and 11 scores.
— NFL Classic! (@79_nfl) October 2, 2022
In 1975, the Cowboys went 10-4 as Staubach returned to the Pro Bowl after passing for 2,666 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions and rushing for 316 yards and a career-high four rushing touchdowns.
Dallas then met Minnesota in the Divisional round where Staubach popularized a favorite sports term.
With the Vikings up by four in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys had the ball near midfield with only 24 seconds left.
Staubach took the snap and uncorked a long pass to receiver Drew Pearson.
Just as Pearson hauled in the pass, an orange object flew past and some players initially thought it was a penalty flag.
The original "Hail Mary."
— NFL Legacy (@NFLLegacy) January 7, 2019
It turned out it was an actual orange that was thrown at Pearson by a Minnesota fan.
After Pearson crossed the goal line for the improbable 17-14 win, the Minnesota players went nuts and claimed Pearson pushed off before catching the ball.
Ultimately, the play was upheld and Staubach later said his throw had been a “Hail Mary” that was thankfully completed.
“The chances on a play like that,” Pearson told reporters after the game, “are slim and none.”
Dallas crushed the LA Rams the following week before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-17, in Super Bowl X.
During the contest, Staubach passed for 204 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions.
Staubach and Dallas Win Another World Title
In 1976, Staubach had more than 2,700 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and three rushing scores as Dallas lost in the Divisional round of the ’76 playoffs.
— 𝙃𝙚𝙡𝙢𝙚𝙩 𝘼𝙙𝙙𝙞𝙘𝙩 (@HelmetAddict) July 4, 2019
A year later, the Cowboys won 12 games and beat the Bears and Vikings in the first two playoff rounds.
Captain America passed for 2,620 yards, 18 touchdowns, and nine picks while adding three rushing touchdowns.
In Super Bowl XII, Dallas faced the Denver Broncos “Orange Crush” defense and former teammate, Morton.
— Ken Gelman (@kengfunk) July 10, 2017
Staubach outperformed Morton during the contest and passed for 183 yards and one touchdown compared to Morton’s 39 passing yards and four interceptions.
“You could never defeat Roger mentally or physically,” late Cowboys head coach Tom Landry said in 1983. “He was like that in a game, in practice, or in the business world.”
The Cowboys won their second Super Bowl easily, 27-10.
Staubach Goes Out on a High Note
A year after their world title victory, the Cowboys returned to the Super Bowl after a 12-4 season and wins against Atlanta and the Rams in the playoffs.
For the first time in his career, Staubach passed for more than 3,000 yards in 1978, netting 3,190 along with 25 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, and another score on the ground.
He led the NFL in passer rating for a third time (84.9) and was named to the Pro Bowl along with receiving the league’s Man of the Year Award for his charity work.
In Super Bowl XIII, the Cowboys played the Steelers for the second time in four years.
Even though Staubach threw for 228 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, the result was the same as in Super Bowl X, with Pittsburgh defeating Dallas 35-31.
In 1979, Staubach had arguably his best season as a pro, passing for 3,586 yards, 27 touchdowns (both career highs), and 11 interceptions.
— NFL Classic! (@79_nfl) November 27, 2022
He led the NFL in passer rating for the fourth time (92.3) and was voted to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time.
After an 11-5 regular season, the Cowboys lost to the Rams in the Divisional round.
Although he appeared to be on top of the world, and Dallas wanted to keep him, Staubach decided to retire after the ’79 season.
He cited health concerns as the primary reason, specifically mentioning more than 20 concussions during his career.
Staubach also knew that backup quarterback Danny White was the future of the Cowboys organization and didn’t want to prolong White’s development.
During his career, Staubach passed for 22,700 yards, 153 touchdowns, 109 interceptions, and ran for 2,264 yards and 20 more touchdowns.
Feb. 5/1942 – Football Hall Of Fame QB Roger Staubach is born. 6x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro, 2x Super Bowl (DAL – 1971 & 1977) & 1x Super Bowl MVP. Career Stats: 131 GP 22,700 Passing Yards, 153 Passing TDs, 2,264 Rushing Yards, 20 Rushing TDs & 83.4 QB Rating. pic.twitter.com/9jUbkMMnQH
— Today In History (@TodayThatWas) February 5, 2022
He was a two-time Super Bowl winner, Super Bowl MVP, second-team All-Pro once, NFL Man of the Year, six-time Pro Bowler, Bert Bell Award winner, league passing touchdowns leader once, and NFL passer rating leader four times.
Additionally, he earned a spot on the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team, the league’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, and has a place in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor.
Currently, Staubach is fourth on the Cowboys’ list of career passing yards and second in yards per attempt.
Captain Comeback had 23 fourth-quarter comeback wins during his career.
“He is one of the finest to ever play the game,” Packers Quarterback Bart Starr once said of Staubach. “I think if I had some of that Staubach competitiveness, I’d have been much better.”
While Staubach was still slinging spirals for Dallas, he began a real estate company, The Staubach Company, that specialized in developing office space.
The company later expanded to developing residential areas. Staubach also did business with industry titans such as Ross Perot.
At one point, The Staubach Company was a multi-billion dollar behemoth. In 2008, Staubach sold his company for $613 million.
In 1985, the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted Roger Staubach.
Earlier today, we asked you to identify which Hall of Famer is represented by the bust on the left.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) November 9, 2022
His high school alma mater, Purcell High, recently announced that its new athletic center would be named Staubach Stadium.
In 2018, Staubach retired from the business world and has devoted the past few years to his wife, Marianne, and five children.
He is currently 80 years old and lives in the Dallas area.