Before he became the Dallas Cowboys’ signal-caller, Tony Romo made a name for himself at Division 1-AA team, Eastern Illinois University, located in Charleston, Illinois.
Here’s what you need to know about Romo’s college career.
1. He Got on the Map as a Sophomore
Romo wasted no time making a name for himself at the 1-AA ranks, as he ranked second in the country in passing efficiency as a sophomore in 2000. That season, he completed 164 of 278 (59 percent) of his passes for 2,583 yards and 27 touchdowns.
As a result of his season, he received All-America honorable mention, All-Ohio Valley Conference and the OVC Player of the Year.
2. He Was the First EIU Player to Earn Walter Payton Award
During his senior season in 2002, Romo became the first player in Eastern Illinois and Ohio Valley Conference history to win the Walter Payton Award, given annually to the top Division 1-AA football player.
That season, Romo set school and conference records for completions with 258 in 407 attempts for 3,418 yards. He also threw for 34 touchdowns and scored one rushing touchdown. Along with the Walter Payton Award, Romo earned consensus All-America honors. He was also selected All-Ohio Valley Conference and was named Conference Player of the Year for the third straight year.
3. EIU Retired Romo’s Number
During homecoming weekend in 2009, Eastern Illinois University retired Romo’s No. 17 jersey and inducted him into EIU’s Hall of Fame. Romo is the first Eastern Illinois player to have his number retired.
“It was such an honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame here, and with the jersey ceremony, it holds a special place in your heart,” Romo said at the event.
4. Sean Payton Said He’s Better
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton also was a quarterback at Eastern Illinois University, and told Jim Rome that he was a better college quarterback than Romo.
While at Eastern Illinois, Payton led the Panthers to an 11–2 record and the quarter-finals of the Division I-AA Playoffs in 1986. While he was there, Payton’s teams were known as “Eastern Airlines” due to their prolific passing attack that frequently topped 300 yards per game – including one game where he threw for 509 yards, which is still a school record.
“Payton, it wasn’t even close. Just look at the numbers. I don’t know if Tony’s even graduated from Eastern yet.”
5. He Holds Two School and Conference Records
Romo still holds school and Ohio Valley Conference records for single season (34) and career touchdown passes (85).
Among other accomplishments, Romo was also first in NCAA passing efficiency in 2001 and second in 2000. He also guided Eastern Illinois to three straight NCAA FCS playoff berths from 2000-02.