Roger Staubach: The American football star who fought in Vietnam

Author: Eric Sof

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Roger Staubach is a former American football player and a famous veteran who served in Vietnam. He has been better known by his nicknames Captain America and Captain Comeback. He paused his professional career to start military service and serve in Vietnam.

Early life

Roger Staubach was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the only child of Elizabeth (née Smyth) and Robert Staubach. His roots are partially German descent. As a youth, he was a Boy Scout and attended St. John the Evangelist Catholic School, and graduated from the Catholic high school Purcell High School in Cincinnati (now named Purcell Marian High School) in 1960.

Military service

It’s interesting that Staubach’s color-blindness was detected during his junior year at the Naval Academy. He was permitted to become the Naval Academy’s first graduate to be commissioned directly into the Supply Corps, which did not necessitate telling the difference between red (port) and green (starboard) lights or to discern the color differences in electrical circuitry.

Roger Staubach at Khe Sahn, Vietnam
Roger Staubach at Khe Sahn, Vietnam (Photo: Pintersest/FamousVeterans)

He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1965 and immediately started serving his four-year commitment to the Navy before joining the Dallas Cowboys in 1969. Staubach served one year in Vietnam as a supply officer at the Chu Lai base/port (a secondary airbase providing relief for Da Nang Air Base approximately 50 miles (80 km) to the northwest) until 1967. He had 41 enlisted men under his command.

Staubach considered staying in the military full-time but found himself missing football.

Military Service Roger Staubach in Vietnam, 1966
Roger Staubach in Vietnam, 1966 (Photo: Stripes)

In September 1967, he returned from Vietnam and spent the rest of his naval career in the United States. He played football on various service teams to prepare for his future career in the National Football League.

Dallas Cowboys

Navy quarterback Roger Staubach won the Heisman in 1963. He might have been the overall #1 pick of the ’64 draft, but he still had 4 yrs left on his military commitment. Round after round, he was passed over. In a “what the heck, why not?” moment, Cowboys head coach Tom Landry, and head scout Gil Brandt decided to use their 10th round pick on Staubach.

Sports and Military Service: Roger Staubach in 1976
Sports and Military Service: Roger Staubach in 1976 (Photo: Sports Journal)

Staubach led the Cowboys to 6 NFC Championship games and 4 Super Bowls in his HOF career, winning the big enchilada twice. His team missed the playoffs only once.

Best draft pick in the history

Roger Staubach is considered the best draft pick in the history of the Dallas Cowboys. So, in a sense, the draft of Staubach was such a great draft pick that it was instrumental in not only the team’s success in the ’70s but also in the dynasty of the early 1990s.

Dallas Cowboys’ Greatest draft pick is Roger Staubach. 1964 draft, 10th round.

Presidential Medal of Freedom

In November 2018, Roger Staubach was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, becoming one of only four recipients associated with American Football to receive the distinction. He was the first player to receive the award, given it simultaneously as Minnesota Vikings DT Alan Page. The other two recipients, Earl Blaik and Bear Bryant were both head coaches.

Roger Staubach Military Service: Medal of Freedom in 2018
President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Freedom to Staubach in 2018 (Photo: The White House)
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3 thoughts on “Roger Staubach: The American football star who fought in Vietnam”

  1. i played softball with a put together team from MACS-7 against Roger(who played shortstop) what a great arm. great game we beat you cbs 2-1 bottom of last inning.
    was happy to see you play professionally with cowboys. I became a fan of yours ever since.
    welcome home and God bless you and thanks for the memories during chu lai and after .

  2. My father in-laws name is Thomas J. Murphy from Worcester Massachusetts. He was UDT group 22. He was stationed at that same Chu Lai Base, with his team partner Jack Stenson. My father in-law tells stories of catching passes from Roger Staubach. If anyone has any information please contact me.