During this Super Bowl LV week, one of the NFL’s all-time great champions celebrated his 79th birthday: Roger Staubach.  “Roger The Dodger” was a role model leader in every way, demonstrating “Teamwork, Tone, Tenacity” on and off the field.  He was a two-time Super Bowl Champ during 11 years as the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback from 1969-1980, a Super Bowl MVP, the Heisman Trophy winner in 1963 as a Midshipman at the U.S Naval Academy (the last Service Academy player to win the Heisman), a Naval Officer who served in Vietnam and a successful entrepreneur and businessman following his athletic career.  Roger’s three pillars of success as leader emphasized:   

  • TEAMWORK:  Roger was voted Captain of championship teams by his peers. He credits leading 41 junior members of the Navy at his base of Chu Lai in South Vietnam as honing his leadership skills.   He would later reflect, ”Even though they are paid differently, everyone has to feel appreciated.”  Staubach once declared as a keynote speaker an awards event, “Having the right people in the right places is very important. But when the right people in the right places are working together, miracles can happen.” Who are the right people? “The right people are people who truly give a darn about someone other than themselves.”
  • TONE:  Staubach inspired those around him with a confident optimism with his mutually reinforcing words and deeds. “Every time I stepped on the field, I believed my team was going to walk off the winner, somehow, someway.”  He popularized the phrase “Hail Mary Pass” when his 50 yard touchdown throw to receiver Drew Pearson in a 1975 playoff game vs. the Minnesota Vikings miraculously won the game in the final seconds.  “Humility” and “Integrity” are two of the adjectives most of his teammates use to describe Roger.  He was always self effacing, a generous sharer of credit and consistent in ensuring his principles and actions were aligned.  Those are leadership attributes that make others want to follow you, whether in a locker room or board room. 
  • TENACITY:  Demonstrating a high degree of self-motivation to follow his dream of playing in the NFL, Roger kept in shape throughout his years in the Navy.  He finally arrived with the Cowboys as a 27 year-old rookie, when most of his college peers were negotiating a second contract.  Asked about his practice habits, Roger replied, “It takes a lot of un-spectacular preparation, to get spectacular results.”  He was also tough as nails … coming back from 20 concussions in his career in an era when quarterbacks took much harsher physical punishment than they do today. 

Roger was also nicknamed “Captain America” and “Captain Comeback,” amazing compliments for such a motivational leader. When asked about his greatest memories as a football player, the Hall of Famer with dozens of trophies, honors and championships often describes meeting President John F. Kennedy at the 1962 Army-Navy Game (in which Staubach led Navy to an upset victory) and then mourning for President Kennedy at the 1963 Army-Navy Game just days after the President’s assassination.  I’ve had the pleasure to meet Roger several times over the years at Navy football games or Naval Academy alumni events.  When asked to discuss leadership lessons for a new generation of Naval leaders he always obliges.  Afterwards he’s quick to offer, “I’d rather tell you stories about my children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren!”  He really does live out his principles about giving a darn about someone other than himself.  As a testament to his selfless leadership and status as an American sports icon, Roger Staubach was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018, one of only two NFL players to ever receive this honor.     

Rear Admiral Paul Becker, USN (Ret) is a leadership expert.  He is the CEO of The Becker T3 Group, a platform for his motivational and national security keynote speaking. A former Naval Intelligence Officer, he’s successfully led large, diverse, high-performing teams afloat and ashore in peace, crisis and combat.  In 2016, The Naval Intelligence Community established “The Rear Admiral Becker ‘Teamwork, Tone, Tenacity Award for Leadership” in his honor

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