If Roger Staubach decides that he is not a career Navy man and wishes to go sailing on the ocean of a $100,000 pro contract, which almost any owner in the NFL or AFL would gleefully offer, there are just three ways for him to do it. He must get married before his final year begins, fail his grades or flunk his physical. The Navy would frown profoundly on any one of these actions.
No one is likely to learn Roger Staubach's intentions in a postgame interview. At Durham, N.C., after Staubach had led Navy past Duke 38-25 in a game that grew much more theatrical than Hardin had anticipated, a group of well-wishers, relatives, reporters and photographers stared at dressing room guards for an hour while naval brass entered and departed. Finally Budd Thalman announced that he would produce "Rog."
Staubach appeared in his Navy blues with his white cap under his arm and blinked pleasantly while flashbulbs popped. Thalman stood next to Roger, poised to fend off intimate questions. Hardin lit a cigar next to Thalman. The interview lasted eight minutes. It went: Fine game, Roger. Thanks. Tired? Sure am. Were you worried out there? Sure was. You like to run or pass best? I like to pass. You seem to enjoy getting trapped and then running. It's fun when I make a gain. Guess you're looking forward to Army? ("Beat Army," said Thalman.) Sure am. What do you think of all your notoriety, Roger? I like to read the papers after we win. How about during the week? I don't read 'em before we play. Take a lot of razzing from the team? Sure do. It's all in good fun, though. These are all great guys. Why are both of your knees taped? ("New-style uniform," said Hardin hastily. "If it goes over, we'll put it on the market. Heh. Heh. Well, Rog, you're keeping 43 other boys waiting on the bus.")
A photographer moved in about three feet from Staubach, crouched down and aimed up for a portrait shot. Thalman pressed his hand against the photographer's shoulder, smiled, wiggled his finger like a teacher telling a child he has been naughty and said, "Too close." Staubach lingered over a couple more questions, and Hardin said, "Forty-three other boys waiting, Roger. Let's go."
Outside Staubach stopped to sign autographs for four teen-agers. Hardin stepped in. "Write the academy, boys. He'll send you an autographed picture. Let's go, Rog." With that, Roger Staubach disappeared into the custody of his keepers, not to reappear until another Saturday.
The Saturday that may—or may not—transcend all others is the Saturday of Nov. 30. The marching and singing of the midshipmen and cadets always—even in a less tragic time—provides football with its most extraordinary setting. Once the flashing figure of Roger Staubach appears, the question of Navy public relations becomes incidental. For Navy, for Army, and certainly for millions of Americans, Staubach's true measure can be taken only on the field of action.