Roger Staubach is featured in our Past Heisman Trophy Winners Series

Heisman Trophy Winners: Captain America -- Roger Staubach

There are all kinds of interesting anecdotes about Roger Staubach, many of them in line with his choirboy image, but my favorite one is about his sex life. 

Staubach, who bore the nickname Captain America, among others, was being interviewed by Phyllis George on The NFL Today in 1975, when George mentioned Staubach’s serene lifestyle. 

“You interviewed Joe Namath and asked him the same questions about how he was a bachelor and I was square and boring,” Staubach shot back. “I like sex as much as anyone else, but just with one woman. It’s still fun.”  

Staubach’s children reportedly set records for being horrified when the interview aired, and the next season when George interviewed Staubach again, he revealed that his wife was expecting another child soon, and said the conception might have happened the night of the first interview. 

Tickets Please!

My second favorite Staubach story is from when he was in New York to receive the Heisman Trophy in November of 1963, and he and his parents and his fiancé were in the lobby of a theater on Broadway, waiting to see a musical. 

Staubach was resplendent in his naval academy uniform and feeling pretty good about life, until theater goers started handing him their tickets, confusing his uniform with that of an usher. 

“That’ll put you in your place, Mr. Heisman,” his fiancé said with a laugh. 

Captain Comeback's Time At Navy

Staubach grew up outside Cincinnati, where he was a Boy Scout and attended Catholic schools, and he was a strong enough student to be offered a place at the U.S. Naval Academy. 

He arrived in Annapolis in 1961, and got his first opportunity to play during the third game of the following season as a third-class midshipman (sophomore) against the University of Minnesota, which featured Carl Eller on defense. 

Staubach was 0–2 passing and was sacked twice for 24 yards in a 21-0 relief appearance loss, so his future nickname of Captain Comeback was not yet apt. 

But a week later against Cornell, with the Mids offense again struggling, coach Wayne Hardin inserted Staubach into the game to see if he could provide a spark. And he could, throwing for 99 yards and two touchdowns while running for 88 yards and another score in a 41-0 Navy win. 

A few weeks later, Staubach started in the Army-Navy game, with the coin toss performed by President John F. Kennedy, a navy man himself.  

“Several days before the Army-Navy game Coach Paul Dietzel of Army rigged up a dummy of Navy's quarterback, Roger Staubach, complete with uniform number 12, and let his senior players pummel it to shreds. It was an impressive demonstration of vicious tackling, but it was just a demonstration,” Sports Illustrated reported after the game.

“When Army got another look at the dummy last Saturday in Philadelphia, it moved—this way, that way, sometimes both ways at once—and only rarely did Army even touch it. What's more, it threw passes, long ones and short ones, always accurately. Never in the long history of Army-Navy football has a quarterback so dominated a game. Roger Staubach, only a sophomore, who spent last year's game sitting in the stands with the rest of the midshipmen, biting his fingernails, passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more as Navy crushed Army 34-14.”

Staubach's Heisman Season

So, the next fall, Staubach’s second class (junior) season, he wasn’t sneaking up on anyone. 

Navy spent the entire season ranked in the top 10, including three weeks at No. 2, with losses to SWC power SMU in Week 4, and to No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, the de facto national championship game

The season also included a 35-14 trouncing of Notre Dame in South Bend, the last time Navy would beat the Irish for 43 years. 

Staubach appeared on the cover of Time magazine and was scheduled to also be on the cover of Life, a plan that changed at the last minute due to the assassination of President Kennedy. 

The tragedy also caused the postponement of the Army-Navy game by a week. 

“There were long hours last week when the Army-Navy football game was not at all important. It would become so again when the nation had begun to rally from the loss of its Chief Executive. A true spectacle of U.S. sport, the game might well serve as both reaffirmation and inspiration to the 100,000 spectators in attendance in Philadelphia and 25 million more watching on television,” Dan Jenkins, the greatest of all college football writers, said in SI.

“The effect of President Kennedy's death was, of course, to produce chaos in athletic schedules everywhere. But no institutions were more directly concerned than the naval and military academies. Both wanted to carry on their 64th traditional game on Nov. 30, and waited for the decision to be made somewhere in the Pentagon. On Friday, the Navy and Army teams met just long enough to be told that practice had been called off. At Annapolis and West Point the players knelt and prayed. The next day they took their normal Saturday-before workouts.” 

Navy won 21-15, it’s fifth straight victory over Army, and the postponement meant Staubach had been presented with the Heisman Trophy several days before. 

Here's Your Heisman, Do You Take Your Coffee With Cream?

There wasn’t quite the hoopla surrounding the presentation of the Heisman as there is now. In Staubach’s case, coach Hardin gathered his players together in the locker room after a practice for the Army game, and told them their teammate was the winner. 

The New York Times wrote that Staubach “compares favorably with Frank Merriwell,” (the mythical Yale quarterback who was the subject of hundreds of dime store novels in the early part of the 20th century). Staubach and a teammate tried go to the Playboy Club that night to celebrate, but couldn’t get in because the doorman refused to believe he was the Heisman winner, so they spent the evening in a coffee shop instead. 

The trophy itself was stored for a few weeks in the trunk of the car owned by Navy’s sports information. 

Staubach is the last player from a military academy to win the Heisman Trophy, and the Naval Academy retired his jersey number 12 during his graduation ceremony the following year. 

Staubach's Legacy

One way you can tell you’re a big deal is if they retire your number before you even leave college. (His 12 is permanently etched on the football field at Annapolis). 

Staubach also played basketball for Navy, and was the captain of the baseball team before spending a year in Vietnam as part of his naval service. 

In 1968, he used his military leave to attend the Dallas Cowboys training camp, then joined the team the following year. 

Before his career was over, he was a Super Bowl MVP and a two-time Super Bowl winner, and was named to the Pro Bowl six times, and eventually to the Hall of Fame. 

But he was reported to have suffered 20 concussions, including six in which he said he was knocked unconscious, which caused him to retire in 1979. 

The TV show King of the Hill used Staubach’s name on the elementary school in the fictional town of Arlen, Texas, and in real life his high school named its stadium after him. 

But perhaps his most enduring legacy is the Hail Mary pass, a term he coined in 1975 after his last second 50-yard pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson won a playoff game against the Vikings. 

After the game, the good Catholic boy said he threw the ball and “said a Hail Mary.” 

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