BURLINGTON — Former NFL quarterback Tony Romo returned to his hometown of Burlington on June 27 for his annual youth football camp, partnering with the coaches at his alma mater to help the next generation of local athletes foster their skills on the gridiron.
However, more important than instilling solid fundamentals and an NFL work ethic was allowing the kids, ranging from third grade to fifth grade, to experience the joy of the sport.
“Kids just want to have fun and play,” Romo said. “They’re not engaging in deliberate practice, and saying ‘Where should my elbow be?’ They’re like, ‘Tackle me!’ You just want them to get out and play around.”
While the heightened stakes and money involved in the NFL can often mask the fact that football is, at its core, a game, Romo’s attention to the passion and excitement not only pushed him to keep going throughout his 14-year pro football career, it has also allowed him to thrive as a color commentator for CBS in his retirement.
During the playoffs and his first Super Bowl broadcast, Romo earned praise not only for his ability to accurately predict plays just before they happened, but also for bringing the common fan’s excitement level to the often buttoned-up play-by-play booth.
“I get excited. I want you guys to love the game, too,” he said. “It’s a great game. There’s so much to love, so much intricate detail that goes into it, not just, ‘That’s a great catch.’ I feel like I want to get that across, and it gets me passionate sometimes.”
With his reputation for foretelling the future, local Green Bay Packers fans were curious to hear Romo’s predictions for the season.
Last summer, he said he thought the team would contend for a Super Bowl, before Green Bay ended up finishing the year by missing the playoffs. So Romo declined to make a firm statement on the team’s finish, instead going with a safe bet of Aaron Rodgers having a solid season under new coach Matt LaFleur.
The professional football talk was just a side note, though, with Romo instead focusing on youth football and the kids at the camp.
Even though Romo spent over a decade playing pro football and his face and voice were beamed out to 98 million people during Super Bowl 54, he believes it is important for local kids to see examples like himself and former teammate and Sharon native Travis Frederick, starting from southeast Wisconsin and going on to big things.
“I feel like anytime you see someone that is real, when you’ve seen them on TV, it just makes you want to work a little harder,” Romo said. “Those sorts of things are positive in any way. More than anything, you want to make sure they know that anything is possible.”