Heisman Trophy publicity campaigns have evolved into something of a competitive art form, from neckties mailed out on behalf of BYU's Ty Detmer to the 10-story billboard of Oregon's Joey Harrington slapped onto a building in Manhattan. Special merit goes to Notre Dame for convincing Joe Theismann to change the pronunciation of his surname from THEES-man to rhyme with the title of the statuette.
No one has suggested that junior quarterback Roger Staubach of Navy claimed the 1963 Heisman thanks to a media blitz. But the then-unequaled efforts of the academy's administration ensured Staubach's achievements would be noticed.
"He was something of an unknown," said Budd Thalman, 75, who at the time was Navy's second-year sports information director. "He became a known."
Staubach landed a starting position four games into the 1962 season. After he showed flashes of brilliance late in the season, Thalman went into action in 1963.
The SID constructed a four-page brochure titled, "Meet Roger Staubach." It was barely larger than a 3-by-5 index card, repeating the bio material found in the team's media guide. The back featured superlative quotes from people who saw Staubach play in '62. The brochures were stuffed into weekly football mailings.
And at the urging of Navy coach Wayne Hardin, Thalman traveled every Monday morning during the season to attend the meeting of the New York Football Writers, driving from Annapolis to Baltimore, then taking the train to the Big Apple. The group's roster included many influential national sportswriters.
Staubach took care of the rest. His performance in a 26-13 win at Michigan in early October made him the front-runner. With Thalman's assistance, Staubach appeared on the covers of Time and Sports Illustrated within a few weeks.
A crew from LIFE spent a week shadowing Staubach for a cover story that had been scheduled to appear before the regular-season finale against Army. Thalman asked the magazine's representative what could prevent the Staubach feature from running. The reply: "Only a national tragedy." That's just what happened Nov. 22, 1963, when shots rang out at Dealey Plaza in Staubach's future hometown of Dallas.
Despite the difficult time that followed, Hardin convened a post-practice team meeting in the locker room days before the Army-Navy game -- which had been postponed in the aftermath of President John F. Kennedy's assassination -- and said he had great news: Staubach won the Heisman.
"I didn't know what to say," said Staubach, a successful Dallas businessman following his Pro Football Hall of Fame career with the Cowboys. "It was a credit to our team, so I said I wished I could cut it up and give everybody a piece."
Thus was born a topic raised at the 1963 squad's frequent reunions, organized by team captain Tom Lynch.
"Everybody will ask Roger, 'Hey, where's my piece of the trophy?'" said Lynch, a retired admiral. "What he said was corny, but he meant it. He inspired us, made us better players."
On the trip to New York City to accept the trophy, Staubach took his parents and future wife to see the play "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Decked out in his academy dress uniform as he awaited the show's start near the entrance doors, he was mistaken for an usher by some theatergoers. "No," he tried to tell them, "I just won the Heisman Trophy!"
At the award presentation, Staubach's ailing father was asked to say a few words. According to Staubach, he said, "God gave us only one child, but He gave us a good one."
Staubach doesn't have a copy of the "Meet Roger Staubach" brochure. Neither does Thalman or the Navy publicity office.
Thalman did get temporary custody of the trophy because Staubach didn't want to keep it in his dorm room after the presentation in New York City.
"I didn't want it in my office, either, so I put it in the trunk of my car for a couple weeks," said Thalman. "Put the groceries in next to the Heisman," he fondly recollects telling someone at the time.