Roger Staubach receives about 100 requests a week for personal appearances. He is forced to reject most, but there was never any question about his showing up tonight at a banquet in Dahlgren Hall saluting Navy's 9-3 football team.
"I've got to say no or I'd be gone 10 times a day," Staubach said. "It's just impossible to do it. I have five children and I like to stay home. But this is a special occasion."
How special Staubach and most of the 700 guests probably did not realize. Athletic Director Bo Coppedge had dreamed for years about such an occasion. He simply had problems finding the right circumstances.
"We had dinners before just for the team and some officials," Coppedge said. "I wanted to have one with a lot of people and I waited for a real successful season. I've waited a long time.
"I've gotten old waiting. Last season, I think I lost a year, but before that I aged five years every season."
Last fall's campaign, which began with seven straight victories, marked a return to the glory years symbolized by Staubach, Class of 1965, and Joe Bellino, '61, both of whom spoke tonight.
"I still get goosebumps when I come on the field and they announce Roger Staubach from Navy," said the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback, who added that "I get tired of watching all you admirals root for the Redskins."
"When that Roger Staubach gets away from (Tom) Landry, he can really talk," said Bellino, who took credit for making Staubach a quarterback.
"I was Roger's first coach at Navy his freshman year and they were going to put him at halfback," Bellino said. "I knew that would be the end of all my records, so I convinced everybody that Roger would make the greatest quarterback Navy would ever see."
Interspersed among yards of gold braid was onetime apprentice seaman Harry Hughes, now governor of Maryland, who said it was "nice to see a team with nonprofessional personnel do so well in the college ranks."
"Hell, governor, they're playing the students, too," said Darrell Royal, the University of Texas athletic director who was the principal speaker.