FRISCO, Texas -- Commissioner Roger Goodell will have some company when he walks to the front of the stage Thursday night to start the NFL draft at AT&T Stadium -- the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Booed in the past when taking the stage, Goodell is expected to be flanked by some Cowboys greats -- Hall of Fame quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, as well as probable future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten.
"I'm sure he's going to get a good response with us being out there," Staubach said. "If they boo, all of us are in trouble."
Cowboys fans have not been pleased with Goodell since he established and upheld running back Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension last season. Without Elliott, the Cowboys (9-7) went 3-3 during his absence and missed the playoffs.
To start last year's draft in Philadelphia, Goodell was soundly jeered and actually playfully implored the crowd to boo louder, which they obliged.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has had his tussles with Goodell as well. He recently was forced to pay part of the NFL's legal fees for the Elliott case as well as his fight against Goodell's contract extension, but Jones said he is hoping the crowd takes it a little easy on the commissioner and thinks about future drafts returning to AT&T Stadium.
"I don't know of anybody, maybe other than me, that's had more boos than Roger has," Jones said at the pre-draft news conference. "I know about how that works. I do hope we can be positive in our reception. We are going to do something pretty special, and he did have a final say in that."
Staubach's draft experience was far different from what those will experience the next three days. He found out by reading the Washington Post that the Cowboys drafted him in the 10th round in 1964. The AFL's Kansas City Chiefs took him in the 16th round.
Staubach still had his senior year at Navy to play and a four-year commitment in the service after graduation before he could think about playing professionally.
"It wasn't a big deal," Staubach said. "When you're young, five years seems like an eternity. I didn't know if I'd ever play again, but they wanted me to play for them, and as it turned out, I signed. The 10th round was a little better because there were fewer [teams], so being in the 10th round was relatively high for somebody they didn't think could play for a while."
Before the draft begins, Staubach will spend time with military members at AT&T Stadium as part of a USAA function to talk about his draft experience as well as his time in the military.
"There's a common denominator there, and it feels good to talk to those who give their lives to protect us, and I know what they have to go through and the ordeal," Staubach said. "I lost a number of classmates in Vietnam, and teammates, so I'm very proud to be a part of the military even though I didn't make it a career. I did serve, and I'm proud of that because it makes me feel good when I'm with military people."