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Yeah (a triumphant grin). The time he was in Tex Schramm's 11th floor office and jumped out of the window. Tex, who is the Cowboys' president, had been on the phone all morning and Roger was leaving town and wanted to talk with him. Well, time was a wastin', so Roger just leaped out the window and waved his arms like a madman. Tex like to passed out.
Staubach is listening to the story as it is retold. A faint smile comes over his usually solemn face and a faint flicker appears in his eyes—aha, maybe there is a wild man lurking back in there somewhere. A tiny one to be sure, but the real thing.
"Tex had his feet up on the desk when I jumped out," he says. The faint smile struggles to become a grin. "He dropped the phone and his eyes rolled back in his head. You can't see the ledge I landed on when you're sitting at the desk." The grin dies aborning. "But I was perfectly safe. The ledge was three feet wide, and I couldn't have fallen if I'd tried. But when Tex's eyes rolled that way, I thought maybe I'd scared him into a stroke. Anyway, he sat up and kind of shook himself all over and flagged me to come in."
End of levity, beginning of serious stuff.
Staubach himself is aware of—and more than a little bit hurt by—his image as pro football's goody-goody quarterback. He recalls a halftime show when Phyllis George contrasted his life-style with that of Joe Namath. The implication was that George preferred a fun-loving swinger like Broadway Joe to a stick-in-the-mud Staubach. "Darn it," Roger complains, "I enjoy sex as much as Namath, but only with one woman."
Actually, wild-man quarterbacks have always been a minority, though a much-publicized one, in the NFL. Bobby Layne, Sonny Jurgensen, Namath, Billy Kilmer and Ken Stabler are the delightful exceptions to a hard, true rule: quarter-backing the pro game is such a demanding, serious and physically painful vocation that most athletes who play the position have no time for high jinks off the field. Late hours, booze, bimbos and general carousing can, of course, lead to titubation in a time of peril and even to terminal absquatulation. (In case your dictionary is out on loan, titubation is the staggering or stumbling gait characteristic of certain nervous disorders, such as being cold-cocked by a blitzing linebacker. To absquatulate is dog Latin for "to go off and squat elsewhere"—like on the bench.)
Bart Starr, a man every bit as straight as Staubach off the field, and in some ways his equal or superior on it, once remarked quite casually that from the first heavy hit of the preseason to a month after the Super Bowl he never once stopped aching. With ligaments, tendons and shoulder joints popping and snapping like it's the Fourth of July, it's just a matter of time before even the most fit of quarterbacks makes the injured reserve list. Clearly, clean living and hard physical conditioning can delay the inevitable and make for a more speedy recovery. Some of the least injured and longest lived quarterbacks of recent years—Starr, Staubach, Fran Tarkenton—were all cast from the straight-arrow mold. Staubach or his publicists should keep that in mind the next time a Phyllis George pops up.
Staubach came by his rectitude—and perhaps his fierce, playing-field determination—via those traditional Middle American routes: church, sports and military service. He was born 36 years ago in Cincinnati and grew up in the suburb of Silverton. His father Robert was a manufacturer's representative (shoe and leather) and his mother Elizabeth worked 25 years at the local General Motors plant. They are both deceased. "Neither of them pushed me into sports," he says. "But I grew up with a lot of older kids—I was one of the youngest kids on the block—and I played ball with them. You had to work hard to keep up. A neighbor named Mr. Brannen had a basketball hoop on his garage, and we were over there all the time, morning, noon and night. When you're only four feet tall, you have to be clever and pushy to snag a rebound."
Baseball was his other early love, and there are many cognoscenti who feel he would have made a first-class major league outfielder and hitter. As a third classman at Annapolis, he batted .420.
"I started in baseball when I was 6," he says. "Our coach was a man named John Fink, and he picked an all-star team from our neighborhood. We played kids from the other neighborhoods." He shakes his head and smiles wryly. "Those were some games—20-walk innings, scores like 48-25. I was a pitcher, catcher and outfielder, and we once won 40 straight games. Later, when I was in high school, my father said to me after a game, 'You know, Roger, it's funny. I used to dread the ball being hit to me when the game was tight; you seem to relish it.' And he was right. I did relish it. There's a special kind of fire that lights up when things get really tough. I used to feel dreadful when I'd foul up or when we'd lose—I'm a tough loser at anything, not just football or Super Bowls. The whole bottom would fall out of my life. But now I've disciplined myself. I only feel rotten for two days afterwards. Then I shut off the recrimination and get on to the next game. If it hangs with you, you'll just lose again."