Tony Romo could’ve prolonged his football career last off-season, but it would have been with a team other than the Dallas Cowboys.
Instead of making that move, Romo opted to walk away from the game and into the broadcast booth as the No. 1 analyst on CBS Sports alongside play-by-play veteran Jim Nantz.
Romo, 37, has been widely praised for his relatively seamless transition into the broadcast booth in his rookie season, and is on the heels of calling his biggest game to date — Sunday’s AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Romo never reached this point of playoffs in his playing days, falling in the divisional round three times (2007, 2009 and 2014) and the wild card round once (2006) in his four postseason trips.
So it begs the question whether Romo has gotten the itch to play again.
“You always miss it a little bit,” Romo said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “I think it’s just human nature when you do something for whatever, 20 years of your life, you’re going to miss parts of it.
“I know I didn’t miss up waking up on Mondays, taking your time getting out of bed. That was a little easier when the kids run and jump on your bed, get yourself up and going.”
Romo, of course, battled injuries late in his career. He had multiple back surgeries and fractured his collarbone three times in his career.
When healthy, though, Romo was one of the top quarterbacks in the league. He left as the Cowboys’ franchise leader in passing yards (34,183), passing touchdowns (248), passer rating (97.1), completion percentage (65.3) and most 3,000-yard passing seasons (7).
Now he’s determined to become one of the top analysts of the game and he’ll have his biggest audience yet Sunday.
“It’s a big game,” Romo said. “I’m very excited about what can happen to these individuals and organizations and how much this means to families. On the outside, you don’t realize how it really changes lives the further, the more success you have [in the playoffs]. I know how important it is.”
Romo will see a couple familiar faces on the Jaguars’ sideline in former teammates such as safety Barry Church and right tackle Jermey Parnell.
On the other side, Romo understands the history of the game and what the Patriots are chasing. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have a chance to become the first quarterback/coach combo to win six Super Bowl championships.
For Romo, it’ll be about letting the game call itself and providing insight where necessary
Nantz has no concerns about Romo calling his first AFC Championship game.
“Will it be any different? Will he feel any different about this game on Sunday? Not one iota,” Nantz said. “He’ll be ready. It’s just a continuum of what we’ve been doing all year long.
“He’s been a dream to work with and I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it. I hate to see the season coming to an end.”
Romo echoed those thoughts and intends to work on multiple things in the off-season to become a better all-around analyst. He doesn’t want to become too repetitive or boring throughout a broadcast, and doesn’t want to only be known for predicting a handful of plays throughout a game.
Nantz has no doubt that Romo will only get better with more experience. Nantz went as far as saying Romo could have gone live on air after just one practice game because he has that much natural instincts.
“I’m just so happy he’s enjoying it,” Nantz said. “[Romo] made this decision, walking away from football when he could’ve been playing for a few more years. This was a big leap of faith for Tony.
“The fact that he’s had a good time, more than good time, I know he’s had a great time. I know he’s enjoyed every part of the process. I take a lot of satisfaction out of that. I really do.”