How Long Cowboys Legend Roger Staubach Really Served In Vietnam

Roger Staubach had a career like few others in the NFL ever have. While he was not the only player to take a break from football to serve in the military, he was one of the most successful players before and after his military service.

According to Fanbuzz, Staubach was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. After high school, Staubach moved to the southwest and spent one year at the New Mexico Military Institute.

He transferred to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He got the starting job as a sophomore and was part of a Midshipmen team that only went 5-5, per Sports Reference. However, in 1963, Staubach's career really heated up. That year he led the team to a 9-1 regular-season record, with 128 completions on 192 attempts and 1,702 total passing yards that season. The season included a win over Notre Dame, which wouldn't happen again for another 44 years, and the Midshipmen wound up playing for a national championship in the Cotton Bowl where they faced off against — and lost to — the Texas Longhorns. While the team's season didn't end on a high note, Staubach's did. He took home the Heisman trophy, and to this day is the last player from a military academy to receive that honor. He even appeared on the cover of Time Magazine that same year.

Staubach's military service

Staubach and the Midshipmen couldn't repeat their success in 1964, and Staubach's college career came to and with the team posting a 3-6-1 record. Before making the jump to the NFL, Staubach had to serve some time in the United States military. At the time, the country was engaged in the Vietnam War, but while at the Naval Academy, Staubach learned something that put his service in jeopardy. According to Fanbuzz, Staubach learned that he was colorblind, and specifically had trouble differentiating between red and green. This landed him in the Supply Corps, where this type of color blindness wouldn't be an issue.

In 1965, Staubach volunteered to go to Vietnam and worked at a supply corps office at Da Nang Air Base. Staubach spent one year of his military career overseas and spent four years on active duty, per the United States Naval Academy. He returned to the United States in 1967 and prepared to throw on shoulder pads and a football helmet once again as he started what became a Hall of Fame NFL career.

Staubach in the NFL

Staubach had been selected in both the 1964 AFL and NFL drafts, with the Kansas City Chiefs taking him on the AFL side. On the NFL side, the Dallas Cowboys took the highly touted college quarterback, but because of his military service, he didn't suit up for them until 1969, according to Pro Football Reference. Staubach played his rookie season with the Cowboys at the age of 27. In his first season, Staubach found playing time in six games, with the first coming late in the season during week eight. From there, Staubach won 10 straight games, a stretch that included a win over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.

That was just the start of an NFL career that helped propel the Cowboys into the upper echelon of NFL franchises (they're the most valuable franchise in the world today, according to a 2021 report by Forbes). According to Fanbuzz, Staubach led the team to the postseason in 10 of his 11 NFL seasons, and four trips to the Super Bowl, including a pair of victories. Staubach became known for his ability to lead the team in clutch situations, earning himself the nickname Captain Comeback, and appearances in six Pro Bowls. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the 1985 class. Staubach also received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2018, per The Dallas Morning News.