Ask ten Dallas Cowboys fans where starting quarterback Tony Romo went to college and I’ll bet less than half can answer without having to run to the Wikipedia.
Is it Illinois? Northern Illinois?
Those are FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) schools, so those are out.
How about Southern Illinois?
Oh yeah! Romo went to the football factory known as Eastern Illinois!
New Orleans Saints head coach and Super Bowl-winner Sean Payton along with two-time Super Bowl champion-head coach Mike Shanahan attended EIU as well—can we refer to EIU as a mini-football factory?
Okay, factory shouldn’t really apply but it sure seems that there’s at least a chance that this campus might become an even greater partner in Cowboys history and legend than it already is. Yes, Payton passed through Dallas from 2003-2005 and probably should have been the young, prodigious head coach that owner and general manager Jerry Jones was going to want once former head coach Bill Parcells finally called it quits, which he did following the 2006 season.
Let’s not start knocking FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) programs, those known as Division 1-AA from 1978-2005. This United States college football classification has produced not just some of the greatest professional football players of all time, but many of the all-time greats. Let’s also keep in mind that the FCS has never cared too much about bowl games. These boys actually have a 24-team college football playoff bracket that generally goes unnoticed or talked about each year.
This is hard to believe given that the following names have emerged from the FCS ranks over the years:
Not too bad, eh?
Currently there’s these guys:
Certainly there’s more players that have made their mark on the NFL from the FCS universe, but now you might have a broader understanding of why I drop the name Jimmy Garoppolo, recipient of the 2013 Walter Payton Award and easily the most visible offensive player from EIU to enter the NFL since—well, since Romo, winner of the 2002 Walter Payton Award.