The story has been passed through Cowboys lore because it is one of loyalty and leadership and Roger Staubach.
There’s this steep, imposing hill looming like a dare outside the old training facilities of the Dallas Cowboys in an era when players worked summer jobs and did not always report to camp in tip-top shape.
Coach Tom Landry opened every training camp ordering players to run the nasty hill until their tongues dragged. Staubach reported one spring with a leg injury, and Landry told him to sit out the straining run.
Staubach vehemently insisted on joining his teammates up the hill. He could not stomach the thought that the players he would be leading into battle every Sunday would see him stand idly by.
And so on that first day of camp—a good six weeks removed from the season opener—Roger Staubach ran the hill because he expected it of himself and everyone else.
Today, some three decades later, he is running up another hill as chairman of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee. He has another Hall of Fame Cowboys quarterback, Troy Aikman, at his side; an extremely imaginative and respected president & CEO in Bill Lively; and a squad full of host committee teammates prepared not only to climb that hill but plant their own flag at the very top of NFL history.
No one is standing idly by.
If you’re going to go into battle, first for a Super Bowl bid against several competing cities, and then prepare to stage a Super Bowl like no other before it, it helps to have good generals. Staubach and Aikman spent their entire NFL careers with one team—the Dallas Cowboys—and are the perfect quarterbacks to lead this offensive juggernaut.
Staubach listened to the first Super Bowl over the radio while still a Navy officer stationed in Danang, Vietnam. He played in four Super Bowls in the 1970s, winning two. Aikman was 3-0 in the Cowboys’ championships of the ’90s. Staubach is fond of saying, “Troy beat the Steelers—he’s my favorite quarterback.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones used to assure Aikman that somehow, someway, he’d help bring a Super Bowl to North Texas before Aikman retired. Jones imagined Aikman playing in that Super Bowl for the Cowboys.
“That’s how long that Jerry has had this vision,” Aikman says. “I would have loved the opportunity to play a Super Bowl in North Texas.”
More than three years ago, once Jones knew his stadium in Arlington was going to happen, he phoned Staubach and said, “We’ve put together a team that’s putting together a bid for the Super Bowl, and we need a face on this thing.”
Staubach recalls, “I knew right away that I couldn’t run the thing. So we got Bill Lively.” Under the leadership of Lively and Staubach, a structure was put together with the aim of getting the right people doing the right things.
A large host committee was assembled to put things into place. A lot of money needed to be raised, and Staubach advised Jones of the need to recruit founding sponsors for the effort.
Working as unpaid volunteers, Staubach and Aikman have helped to line up big-dollar sponsors, and participated in the meetings that secure them. Already the North Texas committee has a budget exceeding $30 million—unheard of in any previous Super Bowl preparation.
“We want sponsorship to pay for as much of this as possible,” Staubach says. “Other Super Bowl committees have gone into the last week before the game still trying to raise money. So it is good if we don’t have to worry about money in the last year.”
Reid Sigmon chaired the Tampa committee that hosted the Super Bowl in 2009. Sigmon says there’s no question having Aikman and Staubach quarterback the North Texas effort is a huge plus.
“I think the leadership skills that both men have shown, not only throughout their careers on the football field but also in the business community, make them absolutely perfect to spearhead this process,” Sigmon says.
“To use a football analogy, there are lots of different parts to this process—the volunteers, the local governments, the corporate sponsors, all work together as a team—and you’ve got to have that overall leadership to make sure you get to that ultimate goal.”
They are a quarter-century apart in age, but the duo of Aikman and Staubach seems perfect. Both are keenly competitive, and both are gentlemen and fair-minded. And although Staubach is from Ohio and Aikman from Oklahoma, their families live in Dallas and they consider themselves Texans.
Staubach and Aikman are the perfect quarterbacks to lead this offensive juggernaut.
“I think a lot of Troy,” Staubach says. “He’s a great guy. We’re good friends.”
Their first venture together began a few years ago in NASCAR. Aikman and Staubach formed a team and labeled it #96 (Aikman’s jersey 8 multiplied by Staubach’s jersey 12).
“The NASCAR experience helps,” Aikman says, noting that procuring big-dollar racing sponsors requires the same basic approach as luring Super Bowl investors.
What’s even more important is their focus, which coincides with Lively’s focus. Both Aikman and Staubach go out of their way to heap praise on Lively.
Aikman says, “I would find it very difficult to believe that any effort had been headed up by a more organized, finer human being than what he is.” And Staubach says, “I thank God every day that Bill Lively is Bill Lively.”
And so the three of them mapped out a game plan and came up with one significant goal—to use this Super Bowl in 2011 to unite the North Texas area like never before.
“This is our chance, to showcase to the country, as well as the world, what North Texas is all about,” Aikman says. “We know we can put on a first-class big event, and we can handle the people. And we know what it can do for the region economically. That was my motivation for getting behind it.”
If you really think about it, it’s not much of a hill for a couple of mountain climbers.
Roger, Tom, & Dirty Harry
Roger Staubach did not so much as blink when asked for his strongest Super Bowl memory. He simply shot back 38 years to a time when he and Tom Landry were just trying to amount to something.
To a time when the coach and quarterback went to the movies together. Well, not “movie” movies—more like extended film sessions.
In five consecutive seasons from 1966 to 1970, the Cowboys won five division titles and lost only 16 times. In 1970, with Staubach and Craig Morton alternating at quarterback, the Cowboys even made it to their first Super Bowl before losing to the Baltimore Colts.
Their playoff record throughout history stood at a paltry 3-5. Armchair quarterbacks argued whether Landry and Staubach were just good enough to keep coming up short.
But in 1971, with the Cowboys struggling at 4-3, Landry designated Staubach his full-time quarterback. The Cowboys proceeded to win nine in a row, including two in the playoffs, and earned the right to face Miami in Super Bowl VI.
Like many great players, Staubach’s strongest Super Bowl memory did not occur on Game Day. It came during the preparation—in the days leading up to that shining Sunday.
“We were down in New Orleans and Coach Landry had me in his room every night watching film,” Staubach says.
Landry’s wife, Alicia, had also made the trip.
Staubach recalls, “One night Alicia said, ‘Leave the guy alone, Tom. Give him a break. Let him go out.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to go out, Alicia; I’m not going anywhere anyway. I’m not hitting Bourbon Street.’
“I went out and watched Dirty Harry, the Clint Eastwood movie, the only night I was out that week. Tom was nervous. I was nervous. Everybody was nervous because we hadn’t won a Super Bowl. Tom knew I wasn’t going to go out and get in trouble, but he had me in his room watching film every night because we had to win that game.”
The Cowboys defeated the Dolphins, 24-3, for their first Super Bowl victory.
Staubach played in four Super Bowls in an eight-year span Eastwood, history shows, went on to star in several more Dirty Harry sequels.
It was Dirty Harry who uttered the famous line, “Go ahead—make my day.” Behind the closed curtains of a hotel room off Bourbon Street, Roger Staubach and Tom Landry made their day, and history, too.