Well, there were a few difference. Such as the fact he brought
mom and dad to team headquarters.
And the six-year, $67.5 million contract he showed up to sign.
On one of the biggest days of his life, Romo remained the
average guy he's been since joining the Cowboys as an undrafted
free agent five years ago. He said he was humbled by the $11.5
million signing bonus and by cementing a spot in the lineage of Don
Meredith-to-Roger Staubach-to-Troy Aikman, but he also insisted the
only thing that's going to change is his tax bracket.
"I never really thought this was a goal along the way. I still
don't necessarily perceive it as a goal, but it's something really
neat that I get to experience," Romo said, flashing the dimpled
aw-shucks grin that's helped him land dates with gorgeous actresses
"It's special just to be a part of this. The best feeling by
far is that the organization, the Jones family, our coaches and
everyone say, 'Hey, you're our guy. You're the guy we want to go to
the next level with. We want to get back to the Super Bowl around
here and win these things.' That means everything, more than the
money ever could."
If Romo's attitude seems too good to be true, there's a good
reason for it. The story of how he got to this point fits the same
Undrafted out of college, he turned down $25,000 signing bonuses
elsewhere and took $10,000 from the Cowboys because he liked his
chances of beating out the competition. Before last season, his
fourth, he still hadn't thrown a pass, but asked for a
multimillion-dollar contract as a challenge to his bosses, telling
them the more they paid him, the more likely they were to play him.
He got the deal and, eventually, the playing time. The contract
numbers show he's made the most of it.
"You can either do this or you can't," he said. "I didn't
know if I was, but I put myself in position to succeed."
Romo thought about what the big contract means while sitting in
bed Monday night. It was still on his mind when he woke up Tuesday
morning. By the time he met the media in the afternoon, he had it
"It almost feels like we accomplished something here today, but
it doesn't," he said. "This sets you up financially and does all
the things that you somewhat hoped for in life, but you don't set
it out as a goal when you start out as a football player. This is
something that more or less comes along the way."
Team owner Jerry Jones called Romo "the man for the 2000s,"
adding, "I wouldn't have done this if I didn't think he gives us a
chance to win Super Bowls."
It took a while for him to come to that conclusion.
Jones' hesitations started during the 2003 draft, when
then-offensive coordinator Sean Payton lobbied hard for Romo. Jones
figured it was because they went to the same school, Eastern
Romo started 5-1, setting records and turning heads. He got
Dallas into the playoffs, then knocked the team out by flubbing the
hold of a short field goal in Seattle. He revealed more of his
character with how he responded: crying and apologizing to
teammates that night, then weeks later asking to be the holder at
the Pro Bowl.
By then, Jones believed in Romo enough not to draft Brady Quinn
when he had the chance in April -- but not enough to offer a big
contract without seeing him play more.
Forced to earn his money, Romo did. The Cowboys are 6-1, tied
for tops in the NFC, and have the conference's No. 1 offense. Romo
has the most yards passing and touchdowns in the NFC.
"It is a feel-good story," coach Wade Phillips said. "The
best part of the story is he's a great person, a great guy to be
around. He doesn't have an ego bigger than the team. The great ones
I've been around -- the John Elways, the Jim Kellys -- it's the same
Romo has shown off his arm with a club-record four 300-yard
games and his feet with a wild scramble for a first down on a snap
that went over his head and rolled 33 yards behind him. He also
found a way to win in Buffalo despite committing six turnovers.
Jones also likes that Romo has remained grounded while holding
one of the most high-profile jobs in U.S. pro sports. Don't believe
it? Well, "Entertainment Tonight" sent a reporter to Tuesday's
news conference to ask Romo about bumping into Britney Spears in
Los Angeles a few days ago.
"Having all the adulation and interest, how do you handle that?
I've seen doctors, lawyers, older, more-seasoned people blow their
whole families up over a little success," Jones said. "He's
handled it really well."
Combine it all and you understand why Jones likes knowing Romo
will be the face of the franchise in 2009, when the Cowboys move
into a $1 billion, 100,000-seat stadium, a rendering of it serving
as a backdrop for Tuesday's announcement.
It was no coincidence.
"I told our guys to put that behind us," Jones said, "because
Tony coming in for the long term is very symbolic of what we're