Tony Romo is just one of those guys. Gifted at seemingly everything he turns his hand to, as a high-school student, Romo was the star quarterback of the football team and the star point guard of the basketball team – the ultimate jock, in other words – and he was courted far and wide by college recruiters in both sports.
Ultimately, at six foot two, Romo knew he wasn’t tall enough to compete in the NBA, so he chose Eastern Illinois University on a football scholarship and has never looked back. At college, he was a three-time All-American and the Walter Payton award winner – awarded to the outstanding player in the division – in his senior year.
Despite gaining notoriety with his NCAA performances, Romo went unselected in the 2003 NFL draft, before eventually being picked up as an unsigned free agent by the Dallas Cowboys. Despite being low on the Cowboys’ roster, Romo steadily worked his way up the pecking order, eventually making his NFL debut in 2006 and quickly establishing himself as the starting quarterback.
A four-time Pro Bowl selectee, among Romo’s other career highlights are leading the league in passing yards, touchdowns, pass completions and quarterback rating.
While Romo was working hard on becoming one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, he was also spending lots of free time at the golf course. Naturally talented once again, Romo made it to the final stage of US Open qualifying in 2010, before ultimately coming up short of earning a spot at Pebble Beach where he is now a regular at the AT&T Pro-Am in February.
Upon retirement from American Football, the Dallas native was immediately hired by CBS as the lead colour analyst for their NFL telecasts – a move that was widely criticised at the time. Romo has since become renowned for his seemingly telepathic ability to predict offensive play calls and to highlight weaknesses in defensive formations.
Retirement from active NFL duty has also thrown a couple of other opportunities Romo’s direction.
When it was announced back in February that Romo had accepted a sponsor’s invitation to play in the Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest this past week, once again, criticism came from all angles.
Several former PGA Tour players – most notably former PGA Championship winner Steve Elkington – were heavily critical of both the Tour and Romo himself for what they see as a publicity stunt that denies genuine pros an opportunity.
And they are right, it is a publicity stunt. As popular as golf may be, it is small potatoes compared to the NFL in the United States. The inclusion of arguably the highest profile Dallas Cowboy of the past two decades, in a tournament held in Dallas, meant that golf, the tournament, and sponsors AT&T were back page news.
And that was the idea.
Firstly, sponsors invitations are exactly that. They pony up the cash for the event – $7.9 million – so they are well within their rights to extend their invitations to whoever the hell they like. With all due respect to Daniel Chopra (the final alternate to get into the field), nobody is coming to watch him play.
Secondly, to claim that Romo is denying somebody the chance to make a living is a stretch at best and clearly erroneous at worst. Romo missed the cut – as expected – so he only denied another player a missed-cut, which means an expensive week with no money or world ranking points to show for it.
What’s more, the guy can play. Week in, week out, we harp on about the quality of players on the PGA Tour, and with good reason. These are the crème de la crème and for some 27 holes, that Romo might make the cut wasn’t actually out of the question.
Ultimately, Romo may have only beaten four players, but those are four PGA Tour professionals and between them they had six PGA Tour victories.
If that’s not an impressive achievement for a retired NFL quarterback who talks football for a living, then I don’t know what is.