In a small town in Wisconsin, a future pro bowler grew up breaking state records with ease. In the town of Burlington, Antonio Romo would go on to a typically small division I-AA school. Tony Romo graduated from Eastern Illinois, being the only football player to ever have his number retired. Mike Shanahan, Brad Childress, and Sean Payton have all played/graduated from Eastern Illinois.
In his sophomore year at Eastern Illinois, Romo threw for 2,583 yards and 27 touchdowns. He was honored as an All-America honorable mention, and the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year. In his junior year, Romo repeated his excellent numbers from the year before. After his junior season, Romo was the only player ever from the OVC to win the Walter Payton award, which was given to the best division I-AA football player. In his senior season, Romo set school and conference records for completions. He also scored 35 touchdowns. Not only did Romo win another Walter Payton award, but he was a consensus All-American. He was selected All-Ohio Valley Conference and was named OVC Player of the Year for the third straight year.
Despite his unbelievable numbers at EIU, Romo didn’t garner as much attention as people thought he would. He attended the 2003 NFL Combine, which could’ve been the reason he wasn’t drafted. He ran the 40-yard dash in measly 5.01 seconds, even though his wonderlic test was a 37.
When April arrived, the EIU talent would go undrafted despite heavy interest from the Cowboys’ assistant coach Sean Payton & the Broncos’ head coach Mike Shanahan. After the draft, Romo agreed to sign with the Dallas Cowboys. Romo entered the 2003 training camp third on the depth card behind Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson. Dallas’ QB situation was a mess, so Dallas acquired Vinny Testaverde and Drew Henson before the season. In fact, Romo would’ve been cut if it weren’t for Quincy Carter being released because of allegations of substance abuse. For two years, Romo was the holder for placekicks.
After 2005, the Cowboys signed Drew Bledsoe. Despite almost being cut, Jerry Jones found Romo extremely valuable. During the offseason of 2006, the Saints’ head coach Sean Payton was looking for a quarterback. Dating back to his days in Dallas, Payton loved Romo. The Saints offered the Cowboys a third round draft pick for Romo, Jerry Jones declined. Instead, Drew Brees would go on to elevate his level of play in New Orleans for Sean Payton.
During the 2006 season, Romo took over the starting job under the national spotlight against the rival New York Giants. Romo’s first pass of that game was intercepted. Romo would finish the game with 227 yards and two touchdowns, but also three interceptions. On October 25th, Bill Parcells declared that Romo would be the full-time starter for the rest of the season. In his first game as the starter, Romo led the Cowboys to a 35-14 victory against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday Night Football. Under Romo’s play, the Cowboys clinched a playoff spot. Romo finished the year with a little under 3,000 yards, 19 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, with a passer rating of 95.1. In 2013, his 95.1 passer rating would be ahead of the likes of Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, and Colin Kaepernick.
Continue on page 2…