Quarterback Tony Romo has no interest in repeating his Super Bowl prediction, but it’s safe to say he’s feeling good about the state of the Dallas Cowboys, their chances of making a Super Bowl run and his future with the team.
Romo’s attitude embodies the Cowboys’ general state of euphoria and their optimism for the future based on their off-season moves, typified by last Thursday’s free-agent signing of LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins, a first-round talent who went undrafted because he was sought for questioning in the death of a former girlfriend.
Collins was cleared, and his addition to what was already the best offensive line in the NFL has the 35-year old Romo feeling like a kid again and bursting with excitement about the direction of the team.
“I just think the way [coach] Jason [Garrett] and Stephen [Jones] and Jerry [Jones] have built this team over the last three or four years has been from the inside out, and you’re seeing the benefits of that,” Romo said at Emmitt Smith’s Celebrity Invitational Gala. “We’re still going. This wasn’t a one-year, two — we’re building this for the next five, six, seven years to sustain, and any time you get an opportunity to get a guy like Collins, you should take advantage of that. It just goes to show the ability of our owner, when he sees someone like that, he sees a little bit in some ways of himself in someone like Collins. I think they can relate. As different as that may sound the way he talked and communicated to him and his mom, it was just a great thing to see.”
Romo answered questions on a variety of topics:
What are your impressions of Collins after meeting him at the recruitment dinner at Jerry Jones’ house? “He’s a special kid. I think what you find right away is just — there are different paths to where you want to go. His was not ideal, nor was mine. His was different than mine, I don’t pretend, but I do know what it’s like not to get drafted when you know you have an opportunity to, and I couldn’t imagine if you were a first-round guy who had to go from that weekend. I feel bad. That’s the one area you have to watch in life is just the attacks. In the court system it’s innocent until proven guilty, but in the social world it’s really guilty until you’ve shown everybody you’re innocent. He’s a classic example of that. You hurt for guys like this that take a big hit.”
What advice did you give him about coming into the league as an undrafted free agent like yourself? “I told him he had an opportunity on his own, a silver lining at the end of it and that just comes from your ability to pick where you want to go. Very few people are afforded that. I feel lucky and blessed now. If you’re going to be a player, if you’re going to have a chance to become a really good player for a team there’s benefits to picking your team. We all want to go in the first round, but that doesn’t happen. You can look at it any way you want, but it still ended up being a very good thing for him. I think he’s the type of kid that’s going to work hard and commit and give everything he’s got. I think this will motivate him even more than it would. If he can go out and be the player he thinks he can be, this is a moot point and it won’t matter where you’re drafted.”
People talk about the window closing because you are getting older, but does this line give you a chance to prolong your career? “When you have a good offensive line like we do the thought definitely crosses your mind to ensure you do everything possible to play longer than maybe what you had envisioned. We’ll reassess that in a few years. My wife will tell you, I’m talking a little more long term than I maybe had been. So we’ll see.”
How do you feel coming off the best season of your career and having a fully healthy off-season for the first time in two years? “Weirdly I’m the only guy on the team getting younger. The last two years have obviously been a struggle in the off-season. But I think it’s been a very rewarding feeling to be able to do some of the stuff I’ve been able to do up to this point since February. I’m just excited about that continuing. Obviously I’ve got to keep stacking days together and we’ll see how it ends up.”
How do you feel about the running back situation after the departure of DeMarco Murray and no additions in the draft? “I think what you find is we have a bunch of guys competing right now. They all understand where they’re at. There’s going to be competition all over the place for this football team and the more times you can create that, the more you have people compete, you’ll find it’s going to bring out the best in a lot of guys. I’m excited to find out which guy steps up and really what multiple guys that are going to step up at the running back position.”
You predicted the Cowboys would win the Super Bowl at an event for the Nancy Lieberman Foundation last month. Do you care to reaffirm that? “Did anybody else see that? I gave a speech and at the end it was ‘Everybody, let’s go get excited.’ It was a great event. People were excited. I’ve said plenty of things before.”
Can you talk about supporting former Cowboys running Emmitt Smith and his wife and why you are here? “We’re lucky to be here. I know Pat and Emmitt. They’re two very special people, and Pat had reached out to my wife, Candice. Candice warmly comes over and asks me about it, it was a no-brainer to come and support them — fantastic people — and give back. They’re genuine. Anybody who is putting any amount of time understands that they’re something to aspire to be. We’re all trying to be that.”
Golf is a big part of Smith’s Celebrity Gala weekend. Will you participate? “I will not be a part of the golf festivities.”
Can you share your Mother’s Day wishes? “There’s actually three special mothers that I know. One is to my left. I’ve got two kids. I’m very lucky. I’ve got the best wife in the world, but this is the best mother I’ve ever seen. I feel blessed. This is one of those rare ones where I’m not going to forget the present or the cards, the presents because for me I know how special she is, so it’s easy for me to remember this. Then my mom. My mom is the most selfless person I’ve ever been around. I can’t say enough. I could go on for an hour about my mom. I’m lucky that she’s here, she supports me. She’s the best mother-in-law, which is not always the case sometimes. My wife loves her. It’s a blessing. Then my mother-in-law, I feel like I have three mothers, because Candice gets on me some, too.”
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760