Credit his unusual career upbringing. Undrafted in 2003 out of tiny Eastern Illinois and signed by Dallas as a free agent, Romo was pressed into service for an ineffectual Drew Bledsoe three years into his career. Never mind that just making it to the NFL was inconceivable. Romo then became the starting quarterback for “America’s Team” — following in the footsteps of Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.
And he thrived. Again, playoffs aside.
Yesterday, Romo, now recovered from his second major injury in two years, acknowledged the strong play of Dak Prescott, the rookie phenom who’s led the Lone Stars to an 8-1 record in Romo’s absence. He read a prepared statement and then both literally and figuratively stepped aside.
It was the most difficult moment of his career.
And he aced it. Here’s how.
He made it about his team, not himself
“Through [the injuries] you have a tremendous amount of guilt on having let your teammates, fans and organization down. After all, they were depending on you to bring them a championship. That’s what quarterbacks are supposed to do. That’s how we’re judged. I love that. I still do.”
He acknowledged his age and vulnerability
“Your potential successor has arrived, injured two years in a row and now in the mid-30s, the press is whispering, everyone has doubts, you’ve spent your career working to get here.”
He admitted to having selfish thoughts ... and how he grew from that
“It’s a dark place. Probably the darkest it’s ever been. You’re sad and down and out and you ask yourself, ‘Why did this have to happen?’ It’s in this moment you find out who you really are and what you’re really about.”
He anointed his successor
“A great example of this is Dak Prescott and what he’s done. He’s earned the right to be our quarterback. As hard as that is for me to say, he’s earned that right.”
He offered his expertise
“And if I can be that [a mentor] to Dak, you know, I’ve tried to be and I will be going forward. We all know something magical is happening to our team. I'm not going to allow this situation to negatively affect Dak or this football team by becoming a constant distraction. I think Dak knows that I have his back. And I think I know that he has mine.”
He remembered how grateful he was just to get here
“It’s not always easy to watch. I think anybody who’s been in this position understands that. But what is clear is that I was that kid once, stepping in, having to prove yourself. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. It really is an incredible time in your life.”
He found peace and allowed himself — and his team — to go forward
“I feel like we all have two battles or two enemies going on. One with the man across from you. The second is with the man inside of you. I think once you control the one inside of you, the one across from you really doesn't matter. I think that is what we are all trying to do.”
As a Jets fan, I look forward to Romo offering us glimmers of hope — and an eventual season-ending injury — in 2017.
He’ll do it in style.