Tony Romo reveals what separates quarterbacks at the highest level


NFL organizations, like the Dallas Cowboys, spend millions of dollars scouting and evaluating potential players. But history has shown us that one of the hardest positions to evaluate in professional football is the quarterback position. And no one would know that fact better than the Cowboys current starting quarterback, Tony Romo.

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After being undrafted out of Eastern Illinois in 2003, Romo signed as an rookie free agent with the Cowboys. A year later, the raw prospect was nearly cut from the team with quarterbacks Quincy Carter, Vinny Testaverde and Drew Henson ahead of him on the depth chart.

Fortunately for Romo, and the Cowboys themselves, Dallas did something unheard of. They cut their starting quarterback, Carter, prior to the start regular season, therefore opening up a spot for the undrafted free agent. Still, it took two more years for Romo to actually start an NFL game for Dallas.

Twelve years after he was signed as an undrafted free agent, Romo is statically the greatest quarterback in franchise history now. And during his climb to greatness, the veteran contributes part of his success to his understanding of spatial awareness and his ability to process information very fast.

"“People talk about potential for quarterbacks, and it is one of the most overrated comments,” Romo told Peter King of the during training camp. “To me, when I look at a young quarterback and a GM asks me, ‘What do you think about his potential?’ I can’t answer until I see how fast he can get through progressions. And when I say that, I mean I need to see if he understands spatial awareness and his ability to go from his third to fourth to fifth even possible guy—and how fast and long that takes him when he doesn’t know the coverage. You can teach someone footwork and teach them how to throw a football but it is very difficult to teach someone how to see things quicker. That’s what separates the quarterbacks who are at the highest level.”"

Spatial awareness is the ability to be aware of yourself and others in a given space, despite any changes of position between the objects within that space. And in the case of NFL quarterbacks, all while under great duress.

Romo admitted that early in his career he struggled with moving too fast and making the wrong reactionary throws. But by better understanding his spacial awareness, and being able to process information much faster, R0mo has actually learned to slow down.

"“I progress through a lot of people really quickly,” Romo continued. “…So what I have to do then, because I go through it so quickly, is to play slower. I need to get my feet back, get set, be in a stationary position and understand what I like to refer to as a balanced pocket and from there I can get through a lot of stuff with very quiet feet to minimize turnovers.”"

And the 35-year old quarterback’s game is still improving because of it. Last season, Romo led the league in completion percentage (69.9%), yards per passing attempt (8.52 ) and overall quarterback rating (113.2).

This season, following a come from behind victory over the New York Giants last Sunday, Romo appears to be finally getting the credit he deserves as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. But if his amazing underdog story proves one thing, it’s the fact good quarterbacks are hard to find…even when their right under your nose.

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