The Jolly Roger of Annapolis

There have been many distinguished service academy gridiron greats over the years, from Army’s “Mr. Inside / Mr. Outside” combination of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis to the Heisman winner Pete Dawkins, and Navy’s Joe Bellino, Napoleon McCallum and Ricky Dobbs.

But great as these legends were, one man stands head and shoulders above the crowd: Navy’s “Jolly Roger” Staubach, the Middies’ quarterback from 1962 through 1964.

How great was this Navy helmsman? Heisman Award, Maxwell Award, and UPI Player of the Year Award, 1963. Two wins over Army, and the last Navy win over Notre Dame for 44 years, also in 1963. Led Navy to the Cotton Bowl and its highest final ranking in the college polls at # 2, again in 1963. Two Super Bowl rings, 1972 (with an MVP award thrown in) and 1978 and two near misses in 1976 and 1979. Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1985. College Football Hall of Fame, 1981. Named greatest Dallas Cowboy of all time in a 2010 Dallas newspaper poll.

But it wasn’t just his awards that made people take notice, it was the sight of his prodigious talents in action, which had to be seen to be fully appreciated. Possessed of a rocket arm and uncanny accuracy, he could also scramble with the best of them, and run a two minute drill as well as a Montana or an Elway. There was no aspect of quarterbacking that Staubach didn’t excel at, and his Dallas coach Tom Landry described him as “possibly the best combination of a passer, an athlete and a leader to ever play in the NFL.” Having witnessed his entire career first hand, we would not quarrel with that opinion.

And seeing him pictured here on the 1964 Navy press guide, we are reminded of yet another accomplishment that few football greats of the past 50 years can boast of: He managed to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame after spending his first four post-college years serving his country rather than reading defenses. Give him those four years back, and there’s no telling how many more records he might have set.

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