Professional football player
B orn Antonio Ramiro Romo, April 21, 1980, in San Diego, CA; son of Ramiro Jr. and Joan Romo. Education: Eastern Illinois University, B.B.A., 2003.
Addresses: Office—c/o Dallas Cowboys, Cowboys Center, One Cowboys Parkway, Irving, TX 75063-4727.
S igned as a free agent by the Dallas Cowboys, 2003; starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, 2006; co-hosted radio show Inside the Huddle, 2006.
Awards: First team, All-Ohio Valley Conference; third team, All-America honors, Associated Press; player of the year award, Ohio Valley Conference, 2000, 2001; Walter Payton Award, Ohio Valley Conference, 2002.
T ony Romo went undrafted by a National Football League (NFL) team in 2003 after an impressive college career at Division I-AA powerhouse Eastern Illinois University, but he soon proved himself to be a talented quarterback when he became a starter for the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. Romo led the Cowboys to the playoffs at end of the 2006 and 2007 seasons. The star player had only begun playing football while a high school junior.
Romo was born on April 21, 1980, in San Diego, California, the son of Ramiro Romo, Jr., and his wife, Joan. His father had once played college soccer in Wisconsin. Romo was raised in the small town of Burlington, Wisconsin. As a child, basketball was his favorite sport and he told his grandparents that he would play for the Chicago Bulls someday.
Romo attended Burlington High School, where he focused on basketball—what he still thought was his best sport—and golf. It was not until his junior year at Burlington that Romo began playing football. In his first high school game, he demonstrated his potential by throwing for 300 yards. Romo continued to put up impressive numbers as he remained the team’s primary quarterback in his junior and senior seasons. At the end of his high school football career, he had thrown for 4,000 yards and 42 touchdowns. In all sports that he played, Romo demonstrated a competitiveness and an ability to quickly make decisions.
After being discovered by Eastern Illinois University’s assistant head coach Roy Wittke, Romo entered the prominent Division I-AA school with a solid football history on a partial scholarship. After being redshirted in 1998, he spent much of his freshman year on the bench, only playing limited min- utes, but worked hard to improve his game. By his sophomore year, Romo’s talent at the quarterback position truly emerged.
In 2000, Romo was the team’s number-one quarterback after spring practice, and blossomed during the season. His Panthers had an 8-4 record, set a school record by averaging 39.1 points per game, and made the I-AA playoffs. Romo contributed by throwing for 2,583 yards and 27 touchdowns. He completed 59 percent of his passes and was second nationally in throwing efficiency. Of his coming out, Romo told USA Today’s Jack Carey, “I wanted to show everybody I could take the position and do well. I thought I had a good head on my shoulders and tried to use it, and things worked out for the best.”
Romo continued to dominate the Ohio Valley Conference during his junior and senior seasons. By the time he reached his senior year, he was able to break Eastern Illinois’ record for most touchdown passes. Romo ended his 2002 senior season by throwing for 3,165 yards and 34 touchdowns, while leading Eastern Illinois to another 8-4 season. At the end of his career with the Panthers, Romo had thrown for a total of 8,212 yards and 85 touchdowns.
Romo’s success at Eastern Illinois attracted the attention of NFL scouts, many of whom came to watch him in person. Though several teams considered drafting him in the 2003 NFL entry draft— including the Dallas Cowboys—Romo’s name was not called; however, Dallas beat out other teams to sign Romo as a free agent. He then spent most of the next three-and-a-half seasons on the bench, observing and learning the quarterback position on a professional level. Romo made brief appearances in six games in 2004 and 16 games in 2005, but unexpectedly became Dallas’ savior in 2006.
That season, Romo impressed in his preseason appearances, but Cowboy’s coach Bill Parcells named the more experienced Drew Bledsoe his quarterback. Parcells, however, gave Romo his chance in week seven. Bledsoe had been erratic and mistake prone throughout the season, so Parcells put Romo in as quarterback at half-time of the game against the New York Giants. While the Cowboys still lost 36-22, Romo threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Showing his inexperience, Romo also threw three interceptions.
Romo was Dallas’ starter for the rest of the 2006 season. In his next four games, Romo threw for 1,088 yards and five touchdowns, but only two interceptions. The Cowboys won three of the four games. His teammates lauded Romo’s rise, with linebacker Kevin Burnett telling Mike Rainey of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Romo is having one of those Cinderella seasons. He’s the type of quarterback who is cool. He extends the play, he gets himself out of bad situations. If we go to the Super Bowl, he’s going to be the guy who takes us there.”
Romo continued to impress for much of the rest of the 2006 season, and even held the league’s leading passer rating for a time. As his star rose on the field, he began being linked with starlets like country singer Carrie Underwood and singer/actress Jessica Simpson. While Romo was able to imbue the Cowboys with a newfound swagger and confidence, he was unable to lead them to the Super Bowl. He ended the season with at least two blowout losses in his last few games. While Dallas made the play-offs, the team lost in the wild card game to the Seattle Seahawks 21-20 after Romo bobbled the snap on the potential winning field goal near the end of the game.
Shaking off the non-fairy tale ending to his 2006 season, Romo emerged a better, more experienced quarterback in 2007. He remained the starter for new coach Wade Phillips, who praised Romo’s dedicated work ethic and intense preparation. Phillips told Kathleen Nelson in the San Luis Obispo, California, Tribune, “He’s really worked at the game. He’s worked at his craft.” Romo started the 2007 season strong, with a high quarterback rating and Dallas posting a 10-1 record. Because of his success, Romo was given a new long-term contract extension with the Cowboys for six years and $67.5 million, including $30 million in guaranteed money during the season.
Romo ended the 2007 regular season with strong numbers—he threw for 4,211 yards and 36 touch-downs with only 19 interceptions—but he again struggled at the end of the season and in the playoffs. The Cowboys earned a first-round bye, and Romo spent part of the week off with Simpson on a vacation in Mexico. In Dallas’ playoff game with the New York Giants, the Cowboys played poorly in their 21-17 loss. Romo passed for 201 yards, but only completed 18 of 36 passes. He threw for one touchdown as well as one interception, on his final play of the game. Many observers blamed Romo’s getaway for the loss, though his teammates defended him.
After the game, Romo said he would take responsibility for the Cowboys’ continued struggles in the playoffs. ESPN.com quoted him as saying, “I know how hard everyone in that locker room worked to get themselves in position to win that game today and for it to end like that, and for me to be the cause is very tough to swallow right now. I take responsibility for messing up at the end there. That’s my fault. I cost the Dallas Cowboys a playoff win, and it’s going to sit with me a long time.” He hoped to do better in 2008 and beyond.
In his time off from football, Romo reads sports books and has pursued his love of golf. In 2004 and 2005, he tried to qualify for both the Byron Nelson and the U.S. Open golf tournaments. Romo insisted that he lives a simple life, telling Ohm Youngmisuk of New York’s Daily News, “My life there really isn’t too much to it. You guys would be pretty bored if you hung out with me all the time.”
Marquis Who’s Who, Marquis Who’s Who, 2008.
Capital Times (Madison, WI), November 29, 2007, p. D1.
Chicago Sun-Times, November 1, 2002, p. 138.
Daily News (New York, NY), December 1, 2006, p. 105.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX), December 31, 2006; January 7, 2007; January 14, 2008.
New York Post, January 10, 2008, p. 85.
New York Times, November 11, 2007, sec. 8, p. 1.
Seattle Times, January 3, 2007, p. D1.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 23, 2006, p. B11.
Tribune (San Luis Obispo, CA), September 28, 2007.
USA Today, August 24, 2001, p. 3F.
“Cowboys coach says Romo reinjured thumb in loss to Giants,” ESPN.com, http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs07/news/story?id=3199765 (February 25, 2008).
“Tony Romo,” NFL.com, http://www.nfl.com/players/tonoyromo/profile?id=ROM787981 (February 25, 2008).