On April 20, 1989, in Valley Ranch’s main meeting room, I attended a Dallas Cowboys press conference announcing the signing of their quarterback to a contract worth $11 million. On October 30, 2007, in the same room, I attended a press conference announced the signing of their quarterback to a contract worth $11 million. Per year.
Then: Troy Aikman. Now: Tony Romo.
Romo’s remarkable rise as an undrafted free agent without a Division I scholarship offer hit a financial crescendo today when he agreed to a six-year, $67.5-million contract extension. As it would you and me, the contract went straight to Tony’s head: “Well," he joked, "obviously I’m a better person now because I have more money.”
He’s likely not an improved human being, but Romo is undoubtedly the best thing to happen to the Cowboys since Aikman. And to think, he almost signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos in 2003 (eschewing Denver’s $25,000 offer to take $10,000 in Dallas). And to think, he wouldn’t have made Dallas’ 2004 roster out of training camp if not for Quincy Carter’s affection for wacky tobacky.
“It’s a neat thing going on in my life,” said Romo, who also grossly understated his wardrobe for the occasion, wearing jeans, sneakers and a blue Cowboys golf shirt. Hey, Mr. $67 Million, three words: Lombardo. Custom. Apparel.
Out at Valley Ranch I bumped into people who insisted tight end and Romo confidant Jason Witten deserves a major assist. It is Witten, they say, who urged Romo to escalate contract talks that had slowed to a crawl. A week later, presto, Romo signs the second-richest contract in franchise history and becomes the NFL’s third highest-paid quarterback, ahead of even Tom Brady.
“Tony got very involved in his business,” said owner Jerry Jones. “He’s pretty shrewd.”
While I too was shrewd for recently declaring that Romo deserved a new deal, most of us were dead wrong about his football skills. No one saw Romo’s potential, other than Cowboys scout Jim Hess and former offensive coordinator Sean Payton.
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One could even assume that some of us are, how you say, shocked? I think my line was, “Romo will either be Doug Flutie or the biggest, smallest mistake since Kevin Sweeney.” Flutie it is.
Like his imminent filthy wealth, the aw-shucks Romo downplayed both his paychecks and his growing stable of starlets: Jessica Simpson. Carrie Underwood. Sophie Bush. Britney Spears? Said Jones in response to a question about Romo's partying with the former Mrs. K-Fed, “Sometime they can smell fresh cash.”
Flanked by parents Ramiro and Joan, Romo reluctantly daydreamed about the toys on his new wish list. “I’ll buy a house,” he shrugged, “but I’ll need someone to help me decorate it.”
Let the offers begin. --Richie Whitt