Romo matures into unquestioned leader

ARLINGTON, Texas – The doubts about Tony Romo’s leadership have died. The questions about whether he grasps what being the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback is all about are gone.

Romo proved himself with the manner in which he led the Cowboys to their first playoff victory in over a decade. He’s come a long way since Troy Aikman publicly wondered if Romo’s rise from obscurity prevented him from fully understanding the responsibilities of being the franchise quarterback for America’s Team and warned him that he better worry about perception.

Although Romo has since gotten out of the celebrity dating scene, he says he still doesn’t concern himself with presenting a certain public persona. The perception of the people inside Valley Ranch is what matters most to him.

“When you’re a quarterback of an NFL team, your teammates and people look to you to see what you’re doing,” Romo said during a promotional appearance for Starter at the Walmart across the street from Cowboys Stadium. “Through the process, they want you to be committed to the approach 100 percent and you have to show them sometimes the level of commitment that you have. It just trickles down.”

Romo added that the Cowboys have a lot of players like that, using Jay Ratliff and Jason Witten as an example. His work ethic has always been outstanding. However, Romo only recently acknowledged that leadership is a large part of Romo’s job.

The progress Romo has made with that part of the job is just as impressive as his improvement protecting the ball.

You could make a convincing case that cutting loudmouth malcontent Terrell Owens put Romo in position to have a more prominent voice in the locker room. But it’s also a role that Romo had to grow into.

Romo compares it to the maturation of a quarterback on a high school or college team. As a sophomore, the kid has to be careful not to step on the upperclassmen’s toes. He’s earned the right by the time he’s a senior.

“You understand what it takes,” said Romo, who is entering his fourth full season as a starter. “You understand what it entails to be at your best and the commitment level it takes to play at a high level. I mean that collectively as a unit and individually. I just think you learn what you need to do to put yourself in your team in position to continue to grow and be that team that hopefully gets a chance to play in the Super Bowl.”

That’s what being the quarterback for the Cowboys is really all about.