"We’ve got some of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game right now."
That's how former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Roger Staubach describes the NFL right now. He believes the era we're in is one of the best, and that's coming from a guy who has seen it all.
Now 72, Staubach took time out of his schedule (after a morning of helping out with the United Way) to pitch in with USAA's Salute to Service campaign. In addition to the media blitz, Staubach said he'll also spend some time with USAA and its partners around this year's Army-Navy game and at the Super Bowl. He called the USAA "a great company for serving veterans" and mentioned many of its financial services.
When I asked what drew Staubach to the USAA campaign, it was pretty simple. He's been member of the organization since he graduated from the United States Naval Academy since—as he put it—"long before you were born." That was in 1965—after three seasons playing football and one season playing baseball for the midshipmen.
In his football career at Navy, Staubach won the 1963 Heisman Trophy as well as numerous other awards. Even though he wouldn't be able to play professional football right away because of armed forces academy commitments, which say a player has to serve in active duty after leaving the academy, Staubach was still drafted in the 10th round of the 1964 NFL draft and the 16th round of the AFL draft that year.
The real-life Captain America then spent a few years honoring his commitment to the Navy. Due to color blindness, he became a member of the supply corps and spent time in Vietnam before eventually fulfilling his NFL dreams.
I asked Staubach about that commitment and if he wished that more service academy graduates went on to professional sports, and he said that (after some recent tweaking) he thinks the system is working exactly the way it is supposed to:
"Obviously I had a four-year commitment and there wasn’t an exception. Then, we had David Robinson (who's about the nicest guy you'll ever meet) and they let him have a couple of years and then on weekends. When you go in, you know what you’re getting into. We’re proud of the fact they’re going to be leaders in our country also."
Starting in 1969, he played 11 seasons—all with the Cowboys—and earned fame, accolades and many more nicknames due to his penchant for leading Dallas to improbable last-minute victories.
The play that put "Hail Mary" into the football lexicon permanently, yeah...that was him.
Thanks to six Pro Bowl nominations, two Super Bowl rings, one Super Bowl MVP, one league MVP and a spot in the Hall of Fame and the Cowboys Ring of Honor, Staubach has become as synonymous with the Cowboys as any player in history—and that's saying a lot.
So, naturally, I asked him about the team which is currently doing better than it's done in a while and sits at second in the NFC East at 7-3.
"They’ve developed an offensive line that is playing good football. We have a fantastic running back [DeMarco Murray]. Keeping him healthy is important, and he’s gonna have one of the great seasons in the history of the NFL. Offensively, Dallas was strong last year but the defense has improved. 32nd last year and now we’re in the middle of the pack. [Defensive Coordinator Rod] Marinelli’s done a helluva job."
Staubach also had some opinions on Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, calling him "a franchise quarterback." Now, I agree with Staubach (a fine position to be in) and have often written that Romo is unfairly maligned for the deficiencies of those around him, so I pressed the former Cowboy on it. He responded:
"Just look at the facts. Look at what he’s done. The statistics are phenomenal. He’s also been very effective in the fourth quarter. Yeah, he's made some mistakes, but that's going to happen to anyone who plays in the NFL long enough.
"When you don’t have the kind of support you need. Sometimes your mistakes look worse than you are. He’s performed at a very high level. Guy is a great football player. You have to have a player that transfers his confidence to the rest of the team and Tony does that."
That's high praise coming from a guy who stands in the pantheon not only of the Cowboys, but also for the entire NFL.
Off of discussing what Romo brings to the table as a quarterback, Staubach opined on some of his favorite quarterbacks in the league. He started, first and foremost, with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady—both of whom he called among the best of all time.
He noted that all of the quarterbacks in today's NFL have good arms, but that Manning and Brady have a "sixth sense" about them in terms of reading defenses, anticipating etc. He also added Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to that list, calling them guys "that really fight through everything."
Though his playing days are long over, Staubach never strays too far from the game, nor does he look past his duty to help out fellow veterans and anyone in need.
Michael Schottey is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff on his archive page and follow him on Twitter.