Even though there's as good of a chance to see his picture in a tabloid magazine as there is in Sports Illustrated, the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback says he's the same person he was when he was a kid growing up about 3 hours from Lambeau Field in Burlington, Wis.
Romo will make his third visit to Lambeau on Sunday when the Cowboys visit the Green Bay Packers in a prime-time showdown. The first, he says, came when he was 12 or 14. Brett Favre was the quarterback that day. The second was a few years ago, when Romo was backing up Vinny Testaverde in Dallas.
This trip will be about business, even though he will have dinner with friends and family upon the Cowboys' arrival in Wisconsin on Saturday. Playing in Lambeau won't be quite as exciting this time, though he did reference the famed stadium with Augusta National Golf Course in the same sentence.
"It was definitely a big deal when I went there my second year in the league, just because it was Lambeau Field and I was excited, because I had never been there on the field and going back there and playing against some of the guys you watched growing up," Romo said in a conference call on Wednesday. "I think now, now it's more about the process. Football is just enjoyable. It's just fun. I'm lucky enough to be doing something for a living that's just fun."
Romo, a star on the field and a celebrity off of it because of his relationship with Jessica Simpson, has gone from undrafted rookie to Pro Bowl quarterback. He's off to a sensational start to this season, ranking third in the NFL with 632 passing yards and fourth with a passer rating of 113.1.
"Tony Romo is a playmaker," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I like the way he plays the game. I think he's very stable as far as his disposition. He doesn't get rattled. That's obviously very important. Just in the game Monday night, he had a couple bumps in the road and responded very positively. He gives them a chance every time he's under center, and that's what you're looking for in your quarterback."
Romo is surrounded by a star-studded cast — a fact he's quick to admit. In Terrell Owens, he has perhaps the NFL's most-feared receiver. In Jason Witten, he has perhaps the NFL's best all-around tight end. He used them expertly in the Cowboys' 37-27 victory over the Packers at Dallas last season.
His relationship with Owens is fascinating. While Owens burned bridges between his previous two quarterbacks — Jeff Garcia in San Francisco and Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia — Romo and Owens have had no such problems in Dallas.
"There's no secret. Either you get along with people or you don't," Romo said. "I'm usually laid back when it comes to individuals. I don't try to judge anybody. I know that I'm not perfect. I'm far from it. So, what might upset another person doesn't upset me."
"I understand that he's a talented player," Romo added, "and I'm lucky enough to have a guy who creates mismatches sometimes. I think he understands — and so do I — that our success is definitely related. The better he does, usually the better I do. The better I do, usually the better he does."
Romo expects a test from a Packers defense that played well the first two games but hasn't played a team with Dallas' weapons. While Romo riddled the Packers' defense last season, that unit was without Charles Woodson and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Plus, the addition of linebacker Brandon Chillar should help the pass defense, too.
"I feel like they're pretty good at all positions," Romo said. "They have a good secondary, they have a good linebacking crew and they're good up front. So, it will be a good challenge for us this week."
The Cowboys are a prohibitive favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Romo, who Dallas coach Wade Phillips compared to John Elway and Jim Kelly in terms of leadership, doesn't want to hear such talk, though not for the obvious reason.
"We could fast forward through the regular season and hopefully to get to a Super Bowl," Romo said. "We could fast forward and go to there right now, but how much fun would that be? ‘OK, good, we did it. Nice.' The part that's the most enjoyable is the journey of this whole process. Getting out there and playing each week. Just trying to see what happens, the emotional ups and downs. That's all the stuff you really love when you look back on life."
Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org