Former Demon star leads 13th Romo Camp, addresses Brett Favre Hall of Fame induction

Burlington High School 1998 graduate Tony Romo high-fives campers during his 13th annual Tony Romo Football Camp June 22 at Burlington High School. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Burlington High School 1998 graduate Tony Romo high-fives campers during his 13th annual Tony Romo Football Camp June 22 at Burlington High School. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

By Jason Arndt

jarndt@southernlakesnewspapers.com

And Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

Tony Romo’s hometown return to Burlington for his football camp might be an annual ritual for the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, but on June 22, it brought additional meaning, courtesy of history.

Romo, accompanied by his two children, discussed Brett Favre’s legacy in a year the former Packers quarterback expects enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with Burlington’s recent WIAA Division 1 state baseball title in a press conference to media.

The Cowboys quarterback, who grew up watching Favre as a child in Burlington, stated Favre brought the Packers back to respectability following years of turmoil.

Additionally, he said the Demons state title win in baseball is something the players will look back on, and remember it for a lifetime.

Furthermore, Romo acknowledged the importance of individual face-to-face contact with all participants at his football camp, which has run for 13 years.

The quarterback should know, since he is a father of 2-year-old Rivers, and Hawkins, who is four.

Romo and the Cowboys travel to Lambeau Field Oct. 16 to play the Packers for the first time since the Dez Bryant “catch” controversy in a January 2015 NFC Divisional Playoff game.

Here’s some of the transcript from Romo’s presser. Read the entire transcript at www.myracinecounty.com.

 

What is it like to be back here, enjoying this off time?

Romo: It’s great, you come back, you got the football camp every year, we have a great staff that works together, which allows us to enjoy having time with the kids. Going out there, communicating, just saying ‘Hi.’ And also teaching them a little bit, the kids have fun, we have fun coming back, it’s great for everybody.

 

Tony, you became the quarterback here, 20 years ago, this fall. You had quite the journey since that first fall. How was that first fall?

Romo: Yeah, I think it feels like it has been quite awhile, I think when you first go out for football, I mean football in Burlington is a big deal.

So, I can remember going out to the first few practices, just wearing pads for the first time, just the excitement, and the joy that comes with that.

The camaraderie of teammates, having the relationships that you build over the years, it’s a shared thing that will last a lifetime in a lot of ways. The players will get to know each other as a team, put your bodies in a line, going out there, and playing, and to try to win, and just to enjoy yourselves, it is just a special time in your life.

Romo takes a picture of campers at the watering hole June 22. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Romo takes a picture of campers at the watering hole June 22. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

As a guy that played multiple sports here in Burlington, you came back at the right time, just when Burlington baseball won the state title. What are your thoughts on that? The accomplishment of the school, the program and the community.

 

Romo: Tell me if I am wrong, but I think for the boys, I know our volleyball team has been great for a long time, but I think this is the first boys team title we might have ever had.

 

Volleyball had it about 50 years ago. (It’s the first boys title since cross country in 1965).

There it is, so you know for anybody to accomplish something like that is an incredible feat that requires a lot of talented kids, great coaching, a great program.

And for me, it is just a great time to come back in and being able to see the excitement. I haven’t seen the kids, but the coaches, and just the community, that’s all everyone has been talking about. That is what sports does, it brings everyone together, and the baseball team did that this year.

They will have this moment in time for the rest of their lives. They will always be able to come back and talk about it. It’s very special.

 

Tell me what it means to come back here for the football camp.

 

Romo: I think when you have an opportunity to be in a position to play professional sports, I have said this many times before, I can remember having the feeling of any time there was a college football player up at UW-Whitewater, came back, I can just remember hanging on every word because it was such a big deal.

For me to come back and talk to the kids, I know that it is a special thing just to be able to see someone that went from Burlington High School to see them playing football on TV, I can just remember being in awe of anybody in that kind of position. For me, it is kind of an opportunity to be back and know that I can come back and teach something about the game, football, I can talk with them, I can communicate with them.

I can give them high fives and show them dreams are possible, anything is possible. You got to work at it, just got to learn something, and I think that the kids all have that sensation when we see somebody else do it. And you get that interaction.

People going through the same things that you did in the same areas and the same spot. It is always just nostalgic and makes you want to help out and talk to people and see them grow.

 

You remember the guys that came back from that age?

Romo and son Hawkins, 4, walk across Don Dalton Field June 22. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Romo and son Hawkins, 4, walk across Don Dalton Field June 22. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

Romo: I do remember a few of them, ex football players that came back, guys like Brian Saltzman, Stenson, Dan Johnson, those are the guys that played football at college.

 

What is your favorite memory of playing here at Burlington?

 

Romo: That is a good question, it’s more of, not necessarily a specific game, I can just remember coming out on the field and just the temperature, wearing black jerseys and just the environment itself. You go through training camp, you just get out there, it is just a unique thing in your life.

The first time, going out on a Friday night, and playing high school football. There is not much like it and you get that feeling when you walk off, it is special and unique. You get goose bumps, you are nervous, you are excited, you are everything wrapped up in one.

You get out there, you compete, just the feeling of playing and walking out there. The excitement level, the nervousness, it was just an incredible, thrilling gift to play high school sports, definitely football.

 

You still got that nervousness?

 

Romo: I think any time before a game, your blood pressure is going, for me it is about the approach. You are always excited, it is a privilege to play the game. And I think you want that gratitude in playing the game.

For me, I take more of an appreciation before I go out there. I always want to appreciate the moment before we walk out. Once you step out there, it is about competing, and about winning. I think you just enjoy the atmosphere of the moment every time.

 

Tony, this is a two-part question, you got injured and you have been a quarterback for more than 10 years now. Players are retiring earlier and earlier in the NFL, how much longer do you think you are going to play?

 

Romo: I think there is no timetable. The reality of it is, time usually tells you when you are done. For me, right now, this offseason has been very enjoyable, and I’m very excited about it.

I think it will be awhile, whether it is eight years, or five. It is just a matter, if you continue to get better and improve, and still play at a very high level, I think it is important to give yourself every opportunity to play as long as you want to.

 

Are you back to normal?

 

Romo: Normal is a relative term, having back surgery, makes you adjust, your routine adjusts automatically. And saying that, this is a strong setback, it’s been three, maybe four years since I have had it.

The ability to work a little bit harder, when I say that, you are running with the team, you are lifting, you are throwing and you might be able to do something. I have been able to do those things.

 

This last draft, your team drafted rather deep defensive-wise, rather than offensively.

 

Romo: My job is to play quarterback, it is not my job to draft, and I think for us, we need to improve in all areas. We didn’t play well enough last year, we didn’t play up to our standards and our football team needs to get better.

Whether it is through the draft, bringing in new people or the improvement of the players on our team, I think in all those areas, we needed to get better. And I think that we did that. We are still building and we still have a long way to go, but we are going to have a great opportunity to have success this season.

Romo and son Rivers, 2, field questions at a June 22 press conference at BHS. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Romo and son Rivers, 2, field questions at a June 22 press conference at BHS. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

Do you think the high expectations of the running game could help?

 

Romo: I think anytime you can run the football, it is going to help your team. At the same time, you got to be able to run, get good stops, you got to get good special teams.

All these things matter. In a lot of ways, the game has come down to the last five or six minutes. Thirteen games a year, you are going to look at, it is going to come down to one-score football games. In those one-score games, you got to score a touchdown, you got to get a stop or you got to control the ball and play the game. I am pretty confident that our team will do it.

 

You have been doing this camp for several years, what have you noticed about attendance, do you feel more youth are being involved in this camp?

 

Romo: That’s a good question, I know we try not to do too much marketing, because when we did that early on, we were getting like a thousand kids. There was almost too many for that hands-on approach to coaching. The kids now, we got about 400 this afternoon, which is a really good number to play, teach, and being able to communicate.

A lot of it is just high-fiving kids, those little kids. Hawkins just wants to high five you and play and jump. He is not really caring about how to throw a football, some days he pretends to.

 

What are your thoughts on Brett Favre getting inducted into the Hall of Fame? Is he one that you looked up to?

 

Romo: I still look up to him. Anytime you grow up in Wisconsin, everyone knows who Brett Favre is and what he has meant to Green Bay and Wisconsin. I think that they come around once in a generation.

Green Bay has been lucky enough to go from Brett to Aaron (Rodgers), but that is just unrealistic in real life to have that happen, in professional sports. Brett getting inducted is almost a no-brainer. I am just glad to see the reunion tthat has happened.

Without Brett Favre, the Green Bay Packers really aren’t the Green Bay Packers.

Even though they have a great history in Lombardi, and everything else that goes into that, I was watching football before they had Brett Favre, and Green Bay was not someone you had to worry about on your schedule if you were playing in the NFL. And I think that he brought them back to prominence and made that organization a standard of excellence and from there, the pieces fell into place. What you see today is a byproduct of him, his talent, his ability, his knowledge of the game, his passion, his work ethic, really his willingness to compete.

There is one thing that you look at that shows up, he was a competitor at the highest level. When he was on the field, you had a chance. There was not a lot of games that Brett Favre played in that, that his football team didn’t have a chance, not necessarily to win it, but in a season.

When you look back and look at it, I would argue that he probably played in a handful of games in his entire career that were meaningless, which is really an incredible stat – how hard it is to get into the playoffs. Maybe one year, maybe two years, they had games that were meaningless. All the others meant something. It’s a unique thing for a fan base to have that here.

 

This might be an awkward question, but how do you feel about being a Hall of Famer one day?

 

Romo: Honestly, you don’t think those things, my job honestly is to get our football team in a position to win, and win a championship. That is the obvious goal when everyone knows. When you do stuff like that, a lot of things open up. There is a million different things. You just got to be able to play the game, and play at a high enough level and things just happen.

 

When you come back to this town, is there something that always looks familiar, even though it has been awhile since you have been here. Is this place always home, even after being in Dallas for 13 years?

 

Romo: That is a good question, I think that when I drive past my old home, my sister lives there now. It is just nostalgic. I can remember like every time you come back, you still picture everything as big, just being in the house you grew up in. It is just home and the way you feel about it. It will always feel like home and that is the nice thing.

 

When you come back into your hometown, everyone has that one spot where people must go to, what is the hot spot that you enjoy, or the first that you go to when you come back?

 

Romo: I think the first spot you got to go is your parents’ house, you got to go home, I think that is the normal one.

I grew up in a lot of ways at Brown’s Lake Golf Course, so that is probably the one spot, if I do anything, I probably will go back and say ‘Hi’ over there.

And then the other hot spots in town, are like Fred’s, Napoli’s is probably a spot I always end up at.