Roger Staubach, Americas Quarterback


The former quarterback on the Cowboys, his famed pass and his success in the real-estate game

Roger Staubach Justin Clemons for The Wall Street Journal; Grooming by Shelly Cervantes

From this weekend’s WSJ, a profile of one of my heroes:

“This year is our year,” says former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach. The legendary football player turned real-estate mogul is sitting far from the field in a glass-enclosed conference room overlooking the Dallas skyline. He’s a few feet from his corner office at real-estate company Jones Lang LaSalle, where he is executive chairman of the Americas region. Although he’s hopeful about the Cowboys’ prospects, he adds, “I said that last year.”

“A reporter later asked what he was thinking, and he replied, ‘I just closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.’ The next day, headlines read, ‘Hail Mary Pass Wins Game’.”

Whether they win or lose, to Mr. Staubach, the Cowboys will always be “America’s Team.” And at age 72, he says he sometimes still gets called “America’s Quarterback.” The Cowboys earned their nickname in 1978, when the National Football League released a film of the same name about the team. The previous year, the Cowboys had earned the highest television ratings and sold the most merchandise of any team in the NFL. Mr. Staubach, who played from 1969 to 1979, still remembers a Philadelphia Eagles player knocking the wind out of him and saying, “Take that, America’s quarterback!”


More From the Interview

What happened after you threw your famous Hail Mary pass?

“One of the fans threw a whisky bottle on the field hit the ref in the head and knocked him out. He was bleeding. I got hit as soon as I threw the ball, so I didn’t really see…I’m laying there and the crowd is silent and I said, ‘Oh,’then I jumped up because I figure if they’re silent maybe he caught the ball. And sure enough there are already some oranges out on the field because the Super Bowl was going to be at the Orange Bowl and the Vikings fans were counting on being in the Super Bowl. They were shocked.”

Where did you get your work ethic?

“I think a lot of it had to do with being in the service. I really feel, first of all, that you have to work hard in life. It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to get spectacular results. There’s that old saying, ‘There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.’ I learned that in sports and business it’s important. You have to control that idea of ‘What’s in it for me?’ You have to think, ‘How does that affect somebody else?’ Some people don’t think that way. When everything’s going well they’re great. Something goes wrong they’re going to jump ship first. The real team players you can trust give a darn about someone other than themselves. Adversity reveals genius and prosperity conceals it. You kind of find out the best in people when times are tough. The best people just hang in there and fight the fight.”

During Mr. Staubach’s tenure, the team reached the Super Bowl five times, winning twice. But the Cowboys haven’t made it to a Super Bowl since 1996 after the 1995 season. “We had a great ’90s with the Troy Aikman phenomenon, but since then, we’re struggling,” he says. “Now we’re getting Tony [Romo], but Tony needs a defense.” Last year, the team’s defense was ranked last in the league.

The sport has changed dramatically since his days on the field, Mr. Staubach says…(read more)


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