Roger Staubach shares his thoughts on Johnny Manziel

Staubach shares his thoughts on Manziel, the last two college athletes to be alone on TIME magazine cover.

DALLAS -- The TIME magazine Cover Club is an exclusive one. It serves as undying evidence of fame (or infamy). It is generally reserved for Presidents and kings, for winners of Oscars and Nobel prizes, for movers and shakers across the nation and around the globe.

And once every 50 years, for an individual college football player.

This week, it's Texas A&M quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.

On Oct. 18, 1963, it was Navy quarterback and soon-to-be Heisman winner Roger Staubach.

"I do understand some of what Johnny is going through," Staubach told in an exclusive interview Thursday morning after being informed of Manziel's cover presence as part of a story entitled, "It's Time To Pay College Athletes."

"When they put you on the cover of TIME magazine that means they know people want to buy that magazine. He's in the news and that's part of what Johnny needs to learn to deal with," Staubach said.

So "Captain America" Staubach empathizes with "Johnny Football" Manziel, even as the younger man seems willing to embrace his casting as a college football villain to the point where he's playing it like "Johnny Outlaw?"

Of course. They are in this particular club by themselves; there is no one else with whom either of them can empathize.

On October 28, 1966, Notre Dame's Jim Seymour and Terry Hanratty appeared on the TIME cover. But solo college football cover boys?

It's been nearly 50 years since that last happened.

"It was a huge honor for me and I'm sure it is a huge honor for Johnny," Staubach said. "You know, I've met Johnny. I like him. I think he is a great athlete. But he's a young kid and so much has happened so fast. I'm sure he is working to get things under control as he comes to understand the different pressures and responsibilities that come when having a role like his. I'm sure he is learning that."

It can be argued that some of Manziel's pressures are self-induced; his behavior is a source of controversy and his resume now includes being handed a one-half-game suspension for allegedly "breaking the spirit" of an NCAA bylaw concerning signing autographs for money. Social media and other factors may contribute to the hyper-focus and the "pressures and responsibilities."

But after Staubach's Heisman and before becoming an iconic Dallas Cowboys star, he served in Vietnam. It's an understatement to say those "pressures and responsibilities" dwarf whatever Manziel is enduring.

"I do know that while it's a fun experience to be on the cover like that, it also makes you a little uncomfortable at the time," Staubach said. "But it was a huge honor for me and I'm sure Johnny thinks of it that way, too."

Staubach admits he's so flattered by various magazine covers that he has six of them hanging in his workout room at home.

"Two from 'Sports Illustrated,' two from 'TIME' and two from 'LIFE," he said. "They inspire me to work out."

They probably inspire Staubach to keep things in perspective as well, and maybe this is another lesson Manziel (and the rest of us) can learn from.

One of the LIFE covers is from Nov. 29, 1963, and depicts Staubach scrambling to glory for Navy. It never quite made it into circulation, however, having been pulled from the printer because the Staubach story needed to be replaced by a news item from that week deemed infinitely more significant.

"I am lucky to have a copy of it," Staubach told me, "because I don't know how many actually got printed after my cover was replaced for a cover story on the assassination of John F. Kennedy."