Dallas Cowboys

Why Tony Romo won’t let his sons play football until 8th grade and why he really retired

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has three sons — Hawkins, Rivers and Jones — but will not allow them to play Pee Wee tackle football.

Romo sat down with Dr. Phil McGraw on his new “Phil in the Blanks” podcast and said his sons couldn’t play tackle football until the 8th grade.

And it has nothing do with a fear of concussions.

“I don’t think I’ll ever discourage them from doing anything. Like to me, it goes back to what you said, ‘if you really like this, go play it,’” Romo said. “What I won’t allow them, from my dad perspective, if everything’s the same as it is 10 years from now … they won’t play tackle football until 8th grade. That’ll be the first time we’ll let them (play).”

Romo said the reason he doesn’t believe football is a craft sport and they can do 7-on-7 and other stuff without having to play tackle football until they get older.

He said it’s easier to learn the game at a later age than other sports.

“In tennis, you need to go practice to get better at tennis. The only position I really believe is a craft-oriented position is the quarterback, where it’s like you physically getting better at throwing does make you better,” Romo said. “Most other positions, it’s running, and it’s your vision and your instinct. (You can say) ‘Yeah, you haven’t played football before’ but you have. It’s 7 on 7.

“A lineman isn’t way more dominant as a sophomore because he played fifth-grade tackle (football). Your body changes, you get bigger. I don’t think you gain anything from doing it is what I believe and there’s only a downside (to doing it). If your kid wants to play, to me, that’s a discussion. But I feel like if I tell them that at a young age then they’ll understand it’s important to me. ‘You can play football, I’m not saying you can’t.’ I love the game, I know what it’s brought me and my family.”

Again, Romo said it had nothing to do with being afraid of head injuries.

“I don’t think I’d be afraid. I know about my whole history and I don’t think you do anything afraid. I think if you’re playing you’re playing,” Romo said. “But if you’re thinking about that then you shouldn’t be playing.”

Romo also discussed his decision to walk away from football after the 2016 season when he was replaced by Dak Prescott following a back injury and was subsequently released by the Cowboys.

“It’s hard to be not good enough if that makes sense,” Romo said. “It’s a thing you have that is innate and drives you nuts.”

Romo considered signing with another team but ultimately chose to become an NFL game analyst with CBS Sports. He said leaving football was about him adhering to the back injuries that plagued him late in his career and not trying to be selfish, even though part of him still wanted to play.

“I knew to not be so selfish in some ways,” Romo said. “I got three boys. I recognized some of the injury aspects with my backs and how it was to get through and get ready and prepare. And a lot of ways there was a loyalty with a lot of people — teammates, coaches, the front office. I don’t want to leave the game and say an awkward goodbye and good luck. I know how hard the game is.”

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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.