It was announced today that Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys quarterback extraordinaire, has decided to retire. Looks like he would rather call Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans games from the booth versus actually playing for either team, as had been widely speculated last month.
Romo leaves America's Team after 15 seasons and a franchise-record 34,183 yards passing, 247 touchdowns, 4 Pro Bowls, and 2014 Second Team ALL-NFL honors. Had it not been for a preseason injury last year and the emergence of former Mississippi State signal-caller Dak Prescott, No. 9 might be preparing for the 2017 season as we speak.
Romo is one of the biggest names to come out of Eastern Illinois and the FCS division. He won the prestigious Walter Payton Award in 2002, which is given annually to the best player in all of the FCS. Despite winning the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year for three straight years, the Panthers QB went undrafted.
In 2003, the Cowboys signed him as an undrafted free agent, and the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
With Tony Romo retiring from the NFL, it got us to thinking about other FCS quarterbacks that left their mark both on the field and in the NFL record books. Here' the cream of the crop.
Phil Simms – Morehead State
Before he joined Jim Nantz in the CBS booth, Simms was an FCS QB with unimpressive numbers.
During his senior season with the Eagles, Simms completed only 92 of 173 passes for 6 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. His career college completion percentage was a lowly 48.9%.
But something about Simms caught the eyes of legendary NFL coaches Bill Walsh and Sam Wyche. The two visited the QB on campus and were ready to pull the trigger in the third round over another quarterback they were looking at, Joe Montana.
It never happened, as the New York Giants nabbed Simms with the seventh overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft. The QB rewarded his squad by winning two Super Bowls, taking home Super Bowl XXI MVP honors, making the Pro Bowl in 1985 and 1993, and scoring First-Team All-Pro accolades in 1986.
[credit]What's The Action[/credit]
Doug Williams – Grambling
Williams was a former protégé of legendary Tigers coach Eddie Robinson. He went 36-7 during his time at the school and was taken in the first round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1978 NFL Draft.
After getting the Bucs just one win away from the 1979 Super Bowl, Williams bolted for the Oklahoma Outlaws of the USFL after Tampa owner Hugh Culverhouse refused to pay his quarterback what contemporaries were making around the rest of the NFL. (In 1981, Williams was making less than 12 NFL backup quarterbacks.)
Williams dominated the USFL, and when the league shuttered its doors in 1986, the Washington Redskins signed him to backup starting QB Jay Schroeder. Williams would eventually get the starting nod and led the Redskins to a Super Bowl XXII rout over the Denver Broncos in 1988. The QB was named Super Bowl MVP that day and eventually found himself inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
Steve McNair – Alcorn State
The 1994 Walter Payton Award winner was taken third overall in the 1995 draft by the Houston Oilers. Dubbed Air McNair for his ability to launch the ball downfield with incredible accuracy, the QB made his mark with the Braves after passing on a full scholarship opportunity to play running back for the University of Florida.
McNair was so magnificent during a senior season in which he amassed nearly 6,000 yards passing and rushing (along with 53 total touchdowns) that he finished third in the FBS Heisman race behind Ki-Jana Carter and Rashaan Salaam.
Joe Flacco – Delaware
Easily one of the highest-paid players in the entire National Football League, Flacco made his mark at the FCS level at the University of Delaware.
The future Baltimore Ravens star saw minimal action for the Pittsburg Panthers in 2004, so he decided to transfer to the Blue Hens. During his senior season, Flacco threw for 4,263 yards, 23 touchdowns, and just 5 picks. He was so accurate that the Ravens made him the 18th overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Ken O'Brien – UC Davis
Although technically D2 when he was drafted by the New York Jets in 1983, O'Brien was taken during what many believe is the greatest quarterback crop in the history of the NFL Draft. John Elway (1), Todd Blackledge (7), Jim Kelly (14), Tony Eason (15), and Dan Marino (27) were all taken in the first round with O'Brien taken 24th overall.
The Jets QB made the Pro Bowl twice and was named the AFC Player of the Year in 1985. He was the first quarterback ever to throw for over 400 yards in a game while earning a perfect NFL rating (158.3).
O'Brien was named to the Cal Aggie Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990 and the College Football Half of Fame in 1997.