SMITH: Staubach's amazing journey took turn through Athens

DALLAS -- Roger Staubach has fond memories of Athens when he was stationed at the Navy Supply Corp School following graduation at the Naval Academy in 1965.

While in Athens, he began a workout routine at the Georgia practice fields which he would doggedly maintain throughout his Navy career. He played pickup basketball games at old Stegeman Hall with the late coach, Mike Castronis. Pat Hodgson, Georgia receiver and later an NFL coach, often played catch with Roger, who remembers zipping a pass to Hodgson who let it slip through his fingers, bloodying Pat's nose.

"I can tell you," Hodgson says, "he threw harder than any quarterback I ever saw. After a workout with him, my wrists ached. He sprained my wrists, he threw so hard." Staubach practiced with due diligence every afternoon in the spring of 1966, focusing on drills recommended by the Dallas Cowboys who had drafted him.

From Athens, Staubach would go on to training at Pensacola, Fla., and later to Vietnam, where he willingly served as a supply officer. In the back of his mind, he was convinced that playing in the National Football League was not out of the question. Who, other than a Roger Staubach, could give up four years in the prime of life and maintain the coordination and muscle suppleness to later flourish in pro football? To Roger, it was elementary. You have to maintain discipline in everything from diet to a demanding workout regimen to having the desire to compete with the best.

There were no shortcuts. Furthermore, he was not interested in such. He chose the Naval Academy with deep commitment and pride and was eager to spend four years on active duty for a prestigious degree in return. Every military man, in the sixties, he faced a tour of duty in Vietnam. Roger never tried to pull any strings, and while he didn't wind up on missions to the rice paddies, if you are in a war zone -- you are in harm's way -- and if you are an athlete, your career becomes vulnerable.

Staubach is ever the patriot without taking to the stump. In fact, when the Cowboys drafted him, Gil Brandt, the vice president for player personnel hinted to Roger's mother that somebody somewhere in Washington might be able to relieve him of his active duty requirement. "She almost threw him out of the house," Roger laughs.

Roger was the All-American boy from grade school through his NFL career. The model citizen, with modesty and selflessness as visible as tattoos on an NFL linebacker today, success was linked to his presence every step along the way. All-American at Navy, Heisman Trophy winner in 1963, he would eventually lead the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl victory in 1973 when they defeated the Dolphins 24-3. Prior to that, the Cowboys had trouble winning the big prize. Staubach led them to the title again, against the Broncos, in 1978.

Following NFL retirement, Roger began a real estate company which became a national brand that he sold to Jones Lang LaSalle for $613 million dollars. He still works with the firm today while enjoying his grandchildren.

Spend time with him and you conclude that every rookie who enters the league each year should be required to spend a day with Roger Staubach. He not only could tell them how to make it in the NFL, but he could tell them about the importance of faith, family and citizenship.

I'm not sure how many millions Roger Staubach is worth today, but he has incredible credibility in a community where he is the most popular of citizens. All cities have pride, and Staubach, as a Cowboy quarterback, gave Dallas reason to puff out its chest. He has always given back to his adopted hometown--a model citizen and model athlete. A model NFL alumnus, too. Many he played with and competed against are divorced, broke and down and out.

With all the sad stories we hear about ex-players, it is gratifying when you review the career and after life of a Roger Staubach. He gives football's image the gloss it needs.