Dallas Cowboys fans are still cheering for Tony Romo.
The former Cowboys quarterback who retired from the NFL last spring, returned to AT&T Stadium for the first time as a CBS broadcaster.
Although his broadcast career is barely two months old, Sunday’s performance calling the Cowboys-Chiefs game was vintage Romo.
Before the pregame anthem, the Cowboys paid tribute to Romo’s career with a short video montage narrated by his longtime teammate Jason Witten. The tribute was played on the large jumbo screen above the field. Romo watched it from the CBS booth and the AT&T Stadium crowd roared with appreciation as it concluded with a simple message: “Thank you 9.”
“I saw the fans clapping and showing appreciation for him so I was able to take 30 seconds and see it and then got to the coin toss and locked in,” Witten said. “I’m happy for him and that moment. I’m glad he got the welcome he did.”
The moment touched Romo, who was obviously moved by the tribute and the response from fans.
“I wasn’t prepared for that,” Romo told his booth partner Jim Nantz. “That was pretty emotional. It’s an honor to just be in that position.”
He was prepared for his job, however, and quickly flashed the insight, humor and love for the game that has drawn so much praise.
There were some interesting twists to Romo’s first time calling a Cowboys game.
Just before Dak Prescott ran in for a 10-yard score near the end of the first half, Romo said “You’re going to throw this into the end zone.”
Romo recovered, however, with a quick explanation for how Prescott was able to run untouched for the score. As CBS ran the slow-motion replay, Romo showed how the field opened up for Prescott.
“[Cole Beasley and Witten] both get doubled and because of that there’s no one on the right side of the field and Dak shows off the wheels,” he said. “Once he gets going he’s got juice. That little fake holds the DB inside and he makes it look easy for a touchdown run.”
Romo showed off his love for the game when the Chiefs inexplicably scored on Tyreek Hill’s 56-yard touchdown catch on the last play of the first half.
“Oh my gosh! I’ve never seen that in my entire time in football and I can promise you Jason Garrett hasn’t either,” Romo said. “I’ve never seen that in my entire life. That’s coaching. That was all Andy Reid and that staff.”
His humor perked up from time to time, including in the second half when Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick appeared to have hurt his right shoulder after a tackle. Scandrick pumped his fist after the play before coming up limp.
“He was fist-pumping. He may have hurt himself celebrating a little bit,” Romo said.
When CBS was showing clips of the broadcast crew enjoying Hard Eight barbeque, Romo ribbed his producer Jim Rikhoff.
“My producer pretty much ate all the food you showed there,” Romo told Nantz. “Jim Rikhoff, if anyone wants to hire a food eater.”
When the Chiefs celebrated their go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter with a mimed potato sack race, Romo joked that he’d rather diagram the celebration than the scoring play.
“I want to talk about the route and the play but that might be even better,” he said.
He helped put the play in perspective, however, by labeling it a Bill Walsh type route. Tight end Travis Kelce simply stopped and came back towards the sideline and quarterback to make the catch.
“No one runs that anymore,” he said. “That’s like a 1985, 1988 Bill Walsh type route. Give Andy Reid credit.”
He inserted a quick ode to Witten in the second half, explaining how the two strangers rode a Cowboys shuttle bus from DFW airport to Valley Ranch when they were rookies in 2004.
Witten remembered that bus ride after the game when neither knew who the other was.
“The joke was, at least I was drafted, he should have known who I was,” Witten said. “I wasn’t a first-round pick, but he probably should have known who the third-round pick was.”
During Saturday’s production meetings with the CBS crew, Witten was happy to see Romo enjoying his new gig.
“I could tell the [kind of] camaraderie he has with that CBS group. I’m happy for him because he’s made a good transition,” he said. “We had a pretty good run together.”