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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 28, 2002

E. Illinois QB Romo takes ribbing over his name

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sure, Eastern Illinois quarterback Tony Romo has been ribbed about his name.

UH vs. Eastern Illinois

• WHAT: NCAA football

• WHEN/WHERE: 6:05 p.m. Saturday at Aloha Stadium

• TICKETS: $19 (sideline), $15 (end zone), $11 (senior citizens, ages 4-high school), free (UH students, Super Rooters)

• TELEVISION: Live on Oceanic pay-per-view, delayed on K5 at 10 p.m.

• RADIO: 1420 AM

"Yeah, I hear it all of the time," said Romo, whose football team plays Hawai'i Saturday at Aloha Stadium. "I tell them, 'No, I'm not the rib guy. I'm not named after Tony Roma's.' I don't mind. If they're going to talk about me, at least it's about something good."

These days, Romo is known for his work with the pigskin. As the two-time Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Romo is regarded as a pro prospect.

"He's quite a competitor," Panther coach Bob Spoo said. "We're happy with the way things turned out with him."

Growing up in Burlington, Wis., Romo never imagined he would develop into a college football player. His interests were in basketball and golf. He is a scratch golfer who finished fourth, behind three pros, in last month's Racine County Open.

In the summer before his junior year of high school, Romo decided to try out for the varsity football team.

"I wanted to play quarterback," he recalled. "I'm the kind of guy who likes to have the ball. That's one of the things that comes with the position."

He started the season opener, throwing for more than 300 yards. "I guess I did OK," he said.

But he admitted, "I didn't think I was that good coming out of high school, at least not good enough to go anywhere big."

But Eastern Illinois assistant head coach Roy Wittke, whose parents live near Burlington, received newspaper articles about Romo. Spoo saw the articles, then decided to offer Romo a partial scholarship.

Burlington is home to the Liars Club, which awards a trophy to the resident who tells the tallest tale every New Year's Eve, and Nestle Chocolate.

"You smell a lot of chocolate all of the time," Romo said. "Seriously, I had to get away from it after a while."

At Eastern Illinois, Romo received a tuition waiver; his parents paid for his food and dormitory.

Romo soon mastered the Panthers' multiple-scheme offense. By his sophomore season, he was the team's best player and received a full scholarship.

Romo is a self-styled "small-town guy" who enjoys the slow pace of Charleston, Ill. He noted that Saturday's attendance at Aloha Stadium will easily exceed Charleston's population of 20,000.

"There's not much to do (in Charleston), and that probably helped me focus on football," Romo said. "We'll go to the movies or hang out. We'll go to the bars once in a while. But we're never out until 3 or 4. You're always in bed by 1 during the summer."

Romo said he is adjusting to the increased attention that he's getting.

"It's starting to get a little hectic," he said. "But my life hasn't changed much. I'm the type of guy who likes to hang out with the guys. But get me in front of a big crowd ... I love it so much. Playing in front of big crowds, that's what you thrive on."