Roger Staubach thinks Johnny Manziel has what it takes to succeed in the NFL

Frank Schwab

In one of the conference rooms at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium, there's a large photo of Roger Staubach on the wall.

Staubach had a bit of a laugh when he saw that someone had pasted a photo of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel over his image.

"We have a lot of Aggies in our group, so I'm still trying to find out who did it," Staubach said.

Staubach didn't mind too much, because the former Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback also likes Manziel and sees a bit of himself in the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, especially when it comes to the debate of whether Manziel can be a NFL star.

Nobody is putting Manziel in Staubach's class yet, but there are some similarities. Both won a Heisman Trophy, both played quarterback with a great athletic skill set, able to scramble and run or pass the ball with equal success. Staubach was a bit bigger when he played with the Dallas Cowboys, at 6-3 vs. about 5-11 for Manziel, but the former Cowboys great sees the comparison.

"I do," Staubach said during a phone interview in conjunction with the USAA, the official military appreciation sponsor of the NFL. "I ran quite a bit too. He might be a little faster than me."

Most of all, Staubach sees what nobody else can: the innate knack Manziel has for being a step ahead of the game and making plays out of nothing. Staubach knows, because he had it.

Off the field, Manziel and the conservative Naval Academy graduate are quite different, but Staubach is a fan.

"I love watching him play," Staubach said. "There's just something about him. He's exciting to watch.

"You don't have to be 6-5. Drew Brees proved that, and we see it with Russell Wilson. It really about instincts and arm strength. Size, it's being shown, is not imperative if you have those qualities."

Manziel's size isn't going to change. He's not going to suddenly grow a few inches. That's one reason his NFL draft stock (as a redshirt sophomore, Manziel can declare for the draft after this season) has been debated so much despite dominant production in the SEC. Arm strength is another knock on him, but Staubach has seen Manziel play and he thinks he is more than sufficient in that area.

"He's got a heck of an arm," Staubach said.

"If you take the 32 NFL quarterbacks in just shorts, throwing to targets, you won't be able to say 'This guy is better than this guy.' They've got to have that feel, and can make the right play. It's that ability to understand what's happening and make those eight or nine plays that make a difference in a game. Figuring out if a guy has that inside of him is the challenge for NFL scouts."

Staubach and Manziel had a random meeting at a Cowboys game late last season, and Staubach came away impressed. Staubach's youngest daughter is a Texas A&M graduate, and during the game Manziel was shown on the stadium's video board. By working through some fellow Aggies, Staubach's daughter sent Manziel a text asking if he'd like to come up to their box.

"Everyone stopped watching the game because they wanted to meet him," Staubach said. "He was nice. I enjoyed meeting him. He's going through a lot, and he'll keep maturing. And on the football field, nothing seems to bother him."

Staubach was getting the word out about the USAA and the MillionFanSalute.com, where fans can support the military by voting for their favorite teams. The NFL cities with the most salutes will earn rewards for their local military community’s morale, sports and recreation initiatives from USAA.

Staubach obviously has a strong tie to the military, and it's arguable that no athlete did more to draw positive attention to the service academies than Staubach, the 1963 Heisman winner.

"The foundation of my life was put in place when I went to the Naval Academy," Staubach said.

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