Nothing demonstrates teamwork better than a football team driving to a winning score as time runs out. And, no football player personifies teamwork more than Roger Staubach, the NFL Hall of Fame quarterback who led the Dallas Cowboys to 23 come-from-behind wins in the 1970s.
But, Staubach’s greatest demonstration of teamwork came after he hung up his spikes. Starting as a real estate broker in the off-season, he built the Staubach Company into a major player in commercial real estate around the world that he sold to Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) in 2008 for more than $600 million.
And, by providing equity ownership of the company to his employees, the sale rewarded the team more than Staubach himself – by the time he sold to JLL, he only owned 12 percent of the company.
“Business is a team,” he told GWG Holdings’ Executive Vice President Merriah Harkins on stage at the Alternative & Direct Investment Securities Association (ADISA) annual conference. “When you work together, good things can happen.”
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Staubach, a member of the GWGH Board of Directors, was interviewed by Merriah as the keynote presentation sponsored by GWGH at the ADISA conference in Las Vegas. In a wide-ranging discussion, Staubach talked about his football career and the creation and nurturing of the Staubach Company.
Fittingly, Staubach spreads around the credit for his wins as a player and a businessman. “You had to have the team behind you,” he told Harkins. “I had the confidence that we could come back and win. I had to transfer that confidence to my teammates or it wasn’t going to happen.”
Supplementing a $25,000 salary in the NFL
Staubach began his real estate career to supplement the $25,000 he was paid to play for the Cowboys in 1969. He delayed his pro football career to age 27 after completing a four-year military commitment to the U.S. Navy that included time in Vietnam. Real estate sales offered him the opportunity to set his own hours in the off-season, working for the Henry S. Miller Company, a brokerage and property management company in Dallas.
“For five months out of the year, I would go to the office until about five o’clock and then I would meet up with the players and we worked out,” he said. “Real estate became part of my life and everything I did became preparation for starting my own company.”
When he won the Super Bowl and MVP award in 1972, he received a telegram from Miller. “It said, congratulations on winning the Super Bowl, by the way, you’ve been promoted to Vice President,” he said. “I said well, I can’t leave now. So, I stayed with real estate.”
Staubach’s assessment of his greatest athletic achievement may surprise Cowboy fans. It wasn’t his Super Bowl victories in 1972 and 1978. It was at the dawn of his career when he played in his first Army-Navy game in 1962, a game he said he was more nervous about than any other game he played.
In the locker room before the game, “President (Kennedy) kinda winked,” he said. “He told us ‘I have to go over to the Army side, but I’ll be pulling for you guys.’”
Navy won 34-14 and Staubach accounted for four touchdowns, two passing and two running. In 1963, he won the Heisman Trophy as the best college player.
The origin of the Hail Mary play
Besides being one of only four players to win the Heisman and Super Bowl MVP, one of Staubach’s passes has entered sports culture: his game-winning pass in a 1975 playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings was the first time the term “Hail Mary” was used for a desperation throw at the end of a game.
“After the game, the AP writer came up to me and said, ‘What were you thinking about when you threw the ball?’’ Staubach said. “I said that I closed my eyes and said a ‘Hail Mary.’”
Staubach retired from football after the 1979 season, devoting himself to building the Staubach Company into the real estate company that eventually specialized in representing corporate clients looking for office space.
“It was a massive home run when we sold the company to JLL to see how many people really benefitted from what they did for the Staubach Company,” he said. “I’m very proud of how it was so successful for everybody.”
Success, Staubach says is the product of preparation and hard work. He believes “it takes spectacular preparation to get spectacular results.”
“I preach the philosophy that if you want to win business, you have to do it right and the rewards will follow. When we opened the offices whether it was Houston or wherever it was, they had ownership in the company. People would say “what, you’re giving away that ownership.” I said, ‘No, I’m creating the opportunities we’re going to have to build a great business.’”