Tony Romo: More Than a Quarterback

Updated on April 6, 2020
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I am a freelance writer with a BA in Communications from the University of Toledo.

Tony Romo on the sideline addressing teammates.
Tony Romo on the sideline addressing teammates.

The Beginning

Tony Romo was born in San Diego, California. However, his family moved to the small town of Burlington, Wisconsin, when he was two years old. As a youngster, like most boys growing up within throwing distance of Green Bay, he was a Packers fan. He followed the exploits of the team, and when he decided to play football, he naturally tried to model his game after their great quarterbacks like Bart Starr and Brett Favre. Romo liked Favre's gunslinger-style of playing and did his best to adopt that style for himself.

Growing up, Tony was pretty much a normal kid and led a normal life. There was nothing strange or unusual until he started to play organized sports. That is when his life changed in a way that he could have never imagined.

Romo Talking About Basketball and Football

Coming of Age

When Romo started to compete in sports, he soon discovered that he had above-average athletic ability. That ability served him well on the football field, especially since he was emulating a scrambling, elusive, risk-taking style.

He didn't start as a quarterback on his high school team until his junior year. But once he got on the field, he immediately began to assert himself. Although his exploits in football were well-known locally, they didn't necessarily translate to the national recruiting scene. He was actually a better basketball player at the time. He earned all-county honors as a senior point guard.

Basketball, Golf, or Football?

In fact, in an article on, former NBA player Caron Butler made the proclamation that Romo could have made it as a professional basketball player. Butler was a fellow member of the All-Racine County basketball team and said that Romo was a natural shooter who could handle the ball very well. In his senior year, he averaged 24 points, 8 rebounds, and nearly 5 (4.7 to be exact) assists per game. He finished as his school's all-time leading scorer.

Romo also turned out to be a very good golfer. Many felt he had the skill to become a professional, but that was not to be. His heart was in football.

Romo at Eastern Illinois University.
Romo at Eastern Illinois University.

Building the Road to Fame

Major football programs didn't come knocking on Romo's door, so he ended up taking a partial scholarship offer to Division I-AA Eastern Illinois University. At Eastern, he put in a lot of time working on his game to improve his overall play. The hard work paid off, and he received the Walter Payton Award as the top Division I-AA player. During his senior year, Romo passed for 3,165 yards and threw for 34 touchdowns. But as good as these numbers may sound, they still didn't earn him a spot in the 2003 NFL draft.

After slipping through the draft, Romo received interest as a free agent from several teams. After weighing his options, he settled on the Dallas Cowboys.

From left to right: Drew Henson, Quincy Carter, and Tony Romo.
From left to right: Drew Henson, Quincy Carter, and Tony Romo.

How 'Bout That Cowboy?

After joining the Cowboys, Romo found himself fighting for a spot on the roster. As an undrafted rookie, he knew he had an uphill climb ahead of him, but he tackled the task with vigor and determination.

One thing in his favor was his exceptional athletic ability. The point guard skills that he honed in high school served him well when he found himself in perilous situations in training camp. He was raw, but he made an impression on then-head coach Bill Parcells. The coach saw something in him that the NFL combine and the draft stats sheet didn't show. In Parcells' mind, he passed the eye test.

Watch and Learn

Romo made the team in his rookie year and spent the season primarily on the sidelines, watching and learning. He did see some playing time in the preseason and in a few games during the regular season, but for the most part he was watching from the sidelines.

2004 Season

His second season was different. He was more confident and felt like he had a good chance of getting more playing time. He was more acquainted with the playbook, and he had a better understanding of the NFL game.

And apparently it showed because, early on in his sophomore season, teammates like Darren Woodson were saying he was the best quarterback on the team. But getting more playing time wouldn't be easy because he was fourth on the depth chart behind Quincy Carter, Drew Henson, and Vinnie Testeverde. Off-the-field problems with Carter, however, led to him being cut from the team. This thinned out the ranks and made room for Romo to move up.

Unfortunately, Romo's playing time pretty much remained the same in 2004. Testeverde and Henson split the bulk of game time, leaving him to continue to watch and learn.

2005 Season

The following year in 2005, Dallas decided to let go of Testeverde. They brought in Drew Bledsoe, another veteran who had been released from the Buffalo Bills. Bledsoe seemed to be the answer for a while as Dallas started the season at 7-3. However, they only won 2 more games afterward and finished at 9-7, missing the playoffs.

2006 Season

The next year, in 2006, Romo came into camp knowing that his NFL clock was ticking and that, unless he made a very favorable impression, he was probably going to be released. This is exactly what coach Bill Parcells was thinking. Because of this, he gave Romo the chance to show what he could do by starting him the second preseason game. For the first time, Romo held the reins and was in charge of the first team offense.

Its My Turn Now

The first game Romo started as a Dallas Cowboy was that preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. His coach believed he played well. Romo controlled the team and showed that he could probably handle playing in the NFL.

Later on that year, in the 7th regular season game against the New York Giants, Romo was inserted when Parcells became displeased with Bledsoe's performance. In that game, Romo didn't play exceptionally well—but he didn't play terribly, either. The coaching staff had to make a decision going forward. They decided to go with Romo.

Over the next six games, the Cowboys compiled a 5-1 record, but after that, they went to 1-3. They didn't win the division, but they still made the playoffs where they lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the first game. The rest, as they say, is history. Romo went on to be the starting quarterback for Dallas for the next 10 years until injuries forced him to retire in 2017.

Romo's Retirement and Legacy

The way that he exited his playing career was undoubtedly not the way he had wanted or envisioned, but it probably was the right decision for him to make. He missed considerable playing time over the last two years and was showing signs that his overall health might have been at risk.

During his time as a starting quarterback, he showed flashes of brilliance while at the same time showing many instances of mediocrity. In his time as the signal caller, the Cowboys only won two playoff games, and Romo received the brunt of the blame for that. Whether it was his fault or not, he was always held responsible for that abysmal record.

The opinions on Tony Romo range from him being one of the elite to being a bum, depending on who you talk to. One thing is for sure: You either love him or you hate him. There is no in-between.

Tony Romo was more than a quarterback. He was a natural athlete who chose football over other sports. He was truly one of a kind.

Romo Warming up With the Dallas Mavericks Before the Last Regular Season Game of 2017

The Decision Is Yours

Was Tony Romo a top tier quarterback?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Tony Daniels


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      • Ty Tayzlor profile image


        21 months ago from Anywhere

        Romo got a lot more flack than I think he deserved. His career numbers are on par or better than other great quarterbacks and when he went down in 2015, you saw how the team imploded


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