Staubach's Heisman, piece by piece

Originally Published: August 15, 2013
By Chris Low | ESPN.com

Few Heisman Trophy winners have been as decorated as Roger Staubach, who remains the last player from one of the service academies to win the award after he led Navy to a 9-1 record and No. 2 national ranking in 1963.

This December will mark the 50th anniversary of Staubach's Heisman win, college football's top individual honor, and even after all that he's accomplished on and off the field, the entire Heisman experience holds a special place in his heart.

"One of the reasons is that I've always looked at it as a team award, because if I don't have a really good team that year, I don't come close to winning the Heisman," Staubach said. "That team was one of the most special teams I've ever been a part of, and we're still very close.

"I think that Heisman was part of the glue, not because it's my Heisman. It was the team's Heisman."

[+] EnlargeStaubach Heisman
AP Photo/Jacob HarrisRoger Staubach won the 1963 Heisman as a junior after leading Navy to a 9-1 record.

When Staubach won in 1963, there was no swanky announcement on live television. In fact, the Midshipmen were preparing to face Army that week when Navy coach Wayne Hardin pulled the players into the locker room and informed them that Staubach had just been named the Heisman winner.

The Army-Navy game was being played later than normal that season, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was already an emotional time for the Midshipmen. Kennedy served in the U.S. Navy and had planned on being at the game.

Staubach could see the pride in his teammates' eyes after learning he'd won the Heisman.

"You guys deserve this," he told them. "I'm going to cut it up into pieces and give each of you your piece.

"Of course, whenever I see my teammates now, they tell me they're still waiting for their piece of the Heisman."

Staubach, a Dallas Cowboys legend, is nothing short of football royalty. He was a Super Bowl MVP, and has been inducted into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Yet when people go to his home, the first thing they want to see is his Heisman Trophy.

"They don't say 'Super Bowl MVP.' They say 'Heisman Trophy winner,' " said Staubach, who's been extremely successful in the commercial real estate business and is the executive chairman of Americas at Jones Lang LaSalle.

Staubach, an only child, still gets a lump in his throat when he thinks about his ailing father, Bob, getting up and saying a few words about his son at the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York City.

"That was tough, and he wasn't healthy," Staubach said. "I just remember him saying, 'The Lord only gave us one child, but he gave us a good one.' "

Tom Lynch, the captain of Navy's 1963 team, was in New York for the ceremony, along with Staubach's future wife, Marianne.

One of the things they did while they were there was attend a Broadway play. Staubach was in his academy uniform and feeling pretty good about himself until people started coming up to him -- not to ask for an autograph, mind you, but to give him their tickets because they thought he was an usher.

"My parents told me, 'Roger, you've got to stay humble in life, and this will help you stay humble,' " Staubach recalled.

An even funnier moment came when he and Lynch decided to hit the town and bust into the Playboy Club. Staubach had shed his uniform and borrowed a pair of pants. But they were way too short, classic high-waters.

"We go over there and figure we could talk our way into the Playboy Club," Staubach said. "We're standing out there, and I have these pants on and look like a bumpkin. No one would let us in. So finally, Tom says, 'This guy won the Heisman Trophy. You've got to let him in.'

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"They said, 'Are you kidding me? If he won the Heisman Trophy, where in the hell did he get those pants?' "

So their big night out on the town was spent in a coffee shop.

Staubach was a junior when he won the Heisman and didn't want to keep the statue in his dorm room when he returned from New York. So Navy sports information director Budd Thalman kept it in the trunk of his car for a few weeks.

Thalman had been instrumental in helping make Staubach a household name among the national writers with his four-page "Meet Roger Staubach" brochure that he religiously mailed throughout the season.

"It was a lot different than it is now, but Budd did a good job of making people aware of my statistics and what was going on," Staubach said. "In the back of his mind, he was pushing the Heisman, although there was nothing like Joe Theismann changing his name [to rhyme with Heisman]."

Remarkably, Staubach doesn't remember talking to the media after games that season until after the Army-Navy showdown.

"They kept us away from the press and just felt like it was too distracting," said Staubach, who still wound up on the covers of Time and Sports Illustrated that season. "Obviously, a lot's changed since then, and they've done a great job of marketing the Heisman. But for me, it will always be that 1963 Navy team that won it."

Chris Low | email

College Football

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