Great Classic Article: A Do-Gooder Who’s Doing Good (1978)

Roger Staubach

Roger Staubach: A Do-Gooder Who's Doing Good

On September 4, 1978, Sports Illustrated ran a classic article focusing on Roger Staubach. I have meant to add this post all season given that this year marks thirty years since the article was published. It is a great read.

Here is an excerpt:

The world is too much with us, as Wordsworth said. We live in an age of venality, corruption, scandal and immorality. Diogenes would have to walk a long way with his lamp these days to find an “honest man.” Ironically, he might find him in the vicinity of Dallas, a city more renowned for high-roller excesses than cynicism, as Diogenes and his ilk defined it. If the old Greek Cynic ever returns, he would do well to shine his lantern on 2511 Prairie Creek, the home of one Roger Thomas Staubach in the Dallas suburb of Richardson. For Staubach is by all accounts the Galahad of the Gridiron, the NFL’s own personal St. Francis of Assisi, the straightest arrow in the quiver.

Consider these credentials. Preeminent quarterback and team leader of the world-champion Dallas Cowboys for most of the 1970s—and that despite four years lost to service in the Navy. A loyal husband and family man, the father of five fine youngsters (four girls and a boy). Successful off-season businessman (his own real estate firm). Active in as many do-good organizations as he can fit into his hectic schedule: the American Diabetes Association, the Salvation Army and, of course, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

It’s enough to make a lesser man swear off of hard likker and head for the nearest hair-shirt factory. But there is a devil in the lesser man’s bones, an imp who would seek out imperfection even in the perfect—most importantly in the perfect—so as to justify his own far greater failings.

It takes a few pages, but the article does discuss Staubach’s football career. I learned a few things in the passage below:

Staubach came to football comparatively late, and later still to the position at which he excels. “I didn’t play quarterback until my senior year in high school,” he says. “Before that I was a defensive back and had spent one season injured. Rick Forzano, then an assistant coach at the Naval Academy, scouted me in my senior year and was interested. I’d never thought of the Navy before that. In fact, being Catholic, I would have preferred to go to Notre Dame. But they didn’t show any interest until I was already committed to the Academy. Purdue and Ohio State also contacted me, but after I’d been to Annapolis and looked it over, I knew it was the right place for me.”

And Staubach was the right man for Navy. He was, in fact, the best all-round athlete in recent Academy history. He earned seven letters in football, baseball and basketball, and seven of his passing records still stand. In his junior year he won the Heisman Trophy, defeating such other stick-outs as Billy Lothridge and Dick Butkus for the honor, and received the Walter Camp Memorial Trophy and the Maxwell Trophy as well. In his senior year he won the Academy’s top athletic honors: the Thompson Trophy Cup (for the third time) and the Athletic Association Sword.

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A Lesson from the 1978 Cowboys

Roger Staubach: A Do-gooder Who's Doing Good (1978)

Cover of the September 4 issue of Sports Illustated

You think the 2008 Cowboys have pressure on them? SI predicted that the 1978 Cowboys would go 15-0-1, pretty much wiping out every team other than the L.A. Rams (who the Cowboys played in the NFC Championship game).

Here was the preview for that season:

Dallas could win this division playing its reserves, its only weakness being at placekicker. When All-Pro Efren Herrera demanded to renegotiate his contract, Dallas shipped him off to Seattle. But as scout Cornell Green says, “Maybe this team won’t need to kick any field goals or extra points.” Without the kicking scores the Cowboys still outscored opponents by 40 points last year.

On the way to the Super Bowl, Dallas led the NFL in both offense and defense. Two years ago it had a little trouble moving the ball on the ground, but that problem was solved by the rapid improvement of two young linemen, Tackle Pat Donovan and Guard Tom Rafferty, and by the addition of Tony Dorsett. Dorsett didn’t start until the 10th game but nevertheless managed 1,007 yards, a total Coach Tom Landry termed “only average for him.”

Dallas still throws more than most strong offensive teams, and why not? Wide Receiver Drew Pearson and Tight End Billy Joe DuPree are perennially in the Pro Bowl. Quarterback Roger Staubach, who says he is “36 going on 26,” is accurate and rarely intercepted. Besides, most Cowboy passing plays start as if they are runs, and the threat of a Dorsett run freezes linebackers a long time.

Landry thinks his defense could be the Cowboys’ best ever, coming off a season in which it ranked second in the league in sacks and, counting those as failed pass attempts, best in percentage of completions allowed: 36.4%. Harvey Martin, who unofficially led the NFL last year with 23 quarterback traps, is the game’s best pass rusher. Martin believes his road to super stardom was paved by the arrival of Tackle Randy White as his next-door neighbor in the Cowboy line. And on the opposite flank, Ed (Too Tall) Jones has ambitions of outshining Martin. As if this front wall were not enough, the back wall is impregnable. Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters, both brutal tacklers and adept at stopping the pass and forcing the run, are the league’s best tandem at safety.

By week 10, that Cowboys team stood at 6-4, having lost at Miami.  The Redskins had a one-game lead on Dallas and had already beaten Dallas earlier in the season.   Of course, Dallas won its final six games to go 12-4, while Washington went 1-5 to finish at 8-8.  It would be nice for history to repeat itself…

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Fun with 1970s Ads

I would probably pay money to haveaccess to the SI Vault just to look at old ads. Some of the ads from the September 4, 1978 issue are classic.

Dig the mesh hat.

Dig the mesh hat.

Look at all the seating options. Great for drive-ins!

Look at all the seating options. Great for drive-ins!

I'm quite certain this didn't work out for Terry.

I'm quite certain Qaylar didn't work out so well for Terry.

  • Great article, but what is a hair-shirt factory?

  • I really don’t want to research this, but I would imagine that the Qaylar company had something to do with hair-shirt factories of the day.

  • Hair shirts were worn by monks — the author is alluding to a monastery.

    Anyway, I’m a little surprised that the article listed Staubach’s home address!