Staubach still has winning touch with audience at Naval Academy


ANNAPOLIS -- Roger Staubach looked inquiringly at his audience and quickly decided to answer the question before it was asked.

"Washington 31, Buffalo 17," he said.

Polite applause.

"OK, Buffalo 31, Washington 17."

Thunderous applause.

"I can't believe that," Staubach said. "What do you have against the Redskins? I like Joe Gibbs."

Staubach was taking questions at Alumni Hall last night after delivering a lecture in the Forrestal Series at the Naval Academy. The series periodically brings leading representatives from various walks of life to speak to the brigade of midshipmen and other members of the Navy family.

Introduced by the academy superintendent, Admiral Tom Lynch, former Middie football captain, Staubach opened with a tale about his old teammate during the 1963 Cotton Bowl against Texas.

"We were on our way to losing when Tom asked the ref for a new ball," Staubach said. "The ref asked what was wrong with the one we had. Tom said, 'Texas is playing with it.' "

That was the year Staubach won the Heisman Trophy. After four years in the Navy, he played 11 years for the Dallas Cowboys, leading them to four Super Bowls and winning two.

Today, he is chairman of the board of The Staubach Co., a real estate firm based in Dallas that has offices in 12 cities.

Focusing on what the academy taught him, Staubach cited teamwork, perspective, values, perseverance and preparation for new opportunities "outside our comfort zone." He told a story about an old teammate, Mike Ditka, now coach of the Chicago Bears, to illustrate how leaders can "raise people to new levels."

The Cowboys were dawdling through the 1971 season with a 4-3 record when, at a Monday meeting, Ditka gave the team a piece of his mind.

"He said he was giving all he could and he had a responsibility to us, his teammates, to be sure we did, too," Staubach said. "He said if he saw anybody not giving his best, he'd do something to him.

"With that, we started to bond. Extra things, like a receiver making a block downfield. We won our last seven regular season games, two playoffs and beat Miami in the Super Bowl. We

became a team.

"You midshipmen will see that when you go out in the fleet. You'll work together. You'll work hard. There are no traffic jams along the extra mile."

Staubach was presented with a football signed by members of the 1991 team that averted a winless season by rising up to stun Army.

"It's often been said it doesn't matter what kind of a season we have as long as we beat Army. Well," Staubach said wryly, "this year proved it."

Which raised a point. Can Navy football ever return to the level of Staubach's time, when the Middies were nationally ranked? Probably not, he conceded.

"The NFL has expanded so much and high school kids see all that money the players are making," Staubach said. "It's tough to compete for kids when they know they can go elsewhere and have an immediate NFL opportunity after college.

"To get to the level of the past where we were playing Notre Dame and other tough teams every week, no, we can't do that. I don't know the answer except that there are diamonds in the rough. Kids with high academics. They're out there. We have to keep looking."

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