EDITOR’S NOTE: Today is Part 11 in a 12-part series on Ohio’s historic football personalities. The series began on Aug. 5It continued on Aug. 6Aug. 7Aug. 8Aug. 9Aug. 10Aug. 11Aug. 12Aug. 13 and Aug. 14.

The charisma of Roger Staubach knows no bounds. The Cincinnati native, who won a Heisman Trophy and a Super Bowl MVP, was nicknamed Captain America as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He is enshrined in both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

Small wonder he would captivate even the most charismatic president of his generation. On Dec. 1, 1962 in Philadelphia, Staubach was a mere sophomore starter leading his underdog Navy squad against Army. Although the Commander-in-Chief was supposed to be a neutral observer, there was little doubt who had the loyalty of the World War II PT boat veteran.

Roger Staubach was Cincinnati’s Player of the Year at Purcell High School, went on to win the Heisman Trophy for Navy, and became a Super Bowl MVP with the Dallas Cowboys. He’s also a College and Pro Football Hall of Famer. He is featured in Ohio’s Autumn Legends, Volume I. (Illustration by Oscar Hinojosa)

By the time Staubach was through, Kennedy may have been his biggest fan. The Cincinnati Purcell graduate hit 12 of 15 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores. One of those dashes was a 21-yard scamper in which he allegedly slipped the grasp of all 11 Army defenders to spark a 34-14 upset.

“There ought to be 20 out there like him,” Kennedy famously whispered to an aide.

After the game, JFK made his way to the field to congratulate Staubach.

Larry Phillips, managing editor, Richland Source, Ashland Source and Knox Pages

“I was such a nervous wreck, I don’t remember anything he said or did,” Staubach said of JFK.

Before he was through, Captain America would enchant an entire nation. Why would the president be any different?

Roger Staubach was born Feb. 5, 1942, the only child of Robert and Elizabeth Staubach in Silverton, Ohio — an eastern suburb of Cincinnati. A superb all-around athlete, he grew up a die-hard Cincinnati Reds fan and attended Catholic school powerhouse Cincinnati Purcell, an all boys school with an enrollment of 1,200. The school later consolidated to become Cincinnati Purcell-Marian.

In those days, coach Jim McCarthy’s football machine followed a strict regimen. Sophomores played junior varsity, juniors played defense, and seniors played offense. Not even a generational talent like Staubach would alter that schedule. So, Staubach toiled as a defensive backfield starter his junior season and finally got the QB job in the fall of 1958.

Playing out of the T formation, his job description consisted of controlling the huddle, directing the offense, and handing off to a variety of backs. Yet Staubach would frequently work off the script, as he would throughout his career.

“We never let our quarterbacks run,” McCarthy said. “We had three other (backs) to do that. Roger changed all that. If the receiver wasn’t open, he’d more or less panic and take off.”

In the season opener against Dayton Chaminade-Julienne, another Staubach trait emerged, engineering a successful two-minute drive in the clutch. A final-minute TD throw to Freddy DeFinney (“It was an out-and-up,” Staubach remembered 50 years later) gave the Cavaliers a 28-20 road victory.

A comeback victory over Cincinnati Central the next week set the season in motion. Staubach played at Arlin Field and helped put a 57-0 beating on Mansfield Senior as the offense exploded for 441 yards before a reported 10,000 people. Louisville Flaget ended the perfect season with a 20-0 decision, but Purcell rebounded to knock off St. Xavier 22-0 and Louisville Valley, 67-6.

Staubach’s 62-yard TD run doomed Cincinnati Elder 20-14, and that set up the Greater Catholic League title game against Roger Bacon. Purcell had already clinched a tie for the league championship, but Roger Bacon forged a 7-3 lead late in the game.

Staubach drove Purcell inside the 5, and on the final play of the game kept the ball on an option run before getting stopped at the 2. At a reunion after his 1985 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Staubach and his high school friends were still chewing on that loss.

“The more we talked, the better we got,” Staubach chuckled. “It ended up we won that Purcell-Roger Bacon game.”

That concluded an 8-2 campaign and Purcell was ranked No. 9 in the final big-school state polls. Staubach was voted the Cincinnati Player of the Year and had an outstanding Ohio North-South All-Star game opposite Paul Warfield, another future Hall of Famer.

Roger had no shortage of college suitors, 40 offers poured in as Woody Hayes became a regular visitor and caller to the Silverton home. But Staubach wanted to throw the ball, and with Heisman runner-up Bob Ferguson at fullback, that surely wasn’t the future in Columbus. Truth be told, he had an interest in Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish didn’t reciprocate until it was too late.

So, Staubach enrolled at New Mexico Military Institute and became a Junior College All-American while preparing for a career at the Naval Academy. In that year, he honed his passing skills and led the 1961 Navy freshmen squad to a 9-1 record. But as he prepared for his first varsity season in 1962, playing time seemed a long way off.

He began the campaign as fourth string. Two quarterbacks got hurt and another proved ineffective before Staubach got his chance in the first quarter of the fourth game against Cornell. He immediately led six TD drives in a 41-0 blowout. There was never another question about his place in the Navy pecking order.

That fall culminated in the pounding of Army that enthralled President Kennedy, and even the Cadets’ coach Paul Dietzel.

“He’s a beautiful, unbelievable passer,” Dietzel said. “He’s a scrambler and has great split vision. He can run and that makes it impossible to defend against him — and he’s a tremendous inspirational leader.”

As a junior, Staubach became the best player in the country, and Navy followed his lead to a No. 2 ranking in the polls. There was only one regular-season blemish, a 32-28 defeat at SMU. But the season included victories over West Virginia, Michigan and an upset of No. 3 Pitt. On Nov. 2, the Midshipmen were caught in a 7-7 halftime tie with Notre Dame when Navy coach Wayne Hardin pulled a reverse of the “Win One For The Gipper” speech at the Fighting Irish’s expense.

“Now you boys know that Roger has a chance to win the Heisman, but if we don’t win this game it’s over for him,” Hardin said. “Just give him some time out there. He’ll do the rest.

“Doesn’t he deserve that from you?”

Navy went on to beat Notre Dame 35-14 — a feat it would not repeat for 43 years.

Nearly three weeks later, JFK was assassinated and the Navy squad was heartbroken. It barely edged a badly outmanned Army team 21-15 to earn a trip to the Cotton Bowl. But the Midshipmen were no match for No. 1 Texas, and fell 28-6.

Still, Staubach won the Heisman in a romp, 1,860 points to 504 for runner-up Billy Lothridge of Georgia Tech. That marked the highlight of Roger’s college career. As a senior he was repeatedly injured and Navy staggered to a 3-6-1 record. Then, with an engineering degree in hand, he was sent to Chu Lai to serve as a Supply Corps officer for a year during the Vietnam War.

In July 1969, his active-duty commitment to the Navy expired and he joined the Dallas Cowboys, who had the foresight to draft him in the 10th round in 1964 — knowing he would be unavailable for the next five years.

He joined an outstanding team with a legendary coach, Tom Landry, and an entrenched starting quarterback in Craig Morton. After three years of dueling with Morton, Staubach took over in 1971. He won all 10 of his regular-season starts and turned it up a notch in the playoffs, leading Dallas to Super Bowl VI. Once there, Roger completed 12 of 19 passes for 119 yards and two TDs to earn MVP honors in a 24-3 beating of Miami.

“It was the most exciting feeling I’ve had as an athlete,” Staubach said.

Dallas also won the Super Bowl to cap the 1977-78 season, but Roger paid a price. He suffered numerous concussions, and decided to retire after the 1979 season. He finished as a six-time Pro Bowl QB and posted an 83.4 passer rating, the best mark by an NFL quarterback to that time.

“Roger Staubach might be the best combination of a passer, an athlete and a leader ever to play in the NFL,” Landry said.

Those interested in learning more about Ohio’s football history are strongly encouraged to purchase Ohio’s Autumn Legends, Volume I & Volume II, by Larry Phillips. Both editions come in Kindle, paperback and hardback, and all are available at Amazon.com.

I've lived in Richland County since 1990, married here, our children were born here. This is home. I have two books published on a passion topic, Ohio high school football. Others: Buckeyes, Cavs, Bengals,...