Romo blossoms into a mature passer
IRVING, Texas -- The kid from Wisconsin is going back home to play again.
He's changed a little bit from the last time he played in Lambeau Field. He wears his cap regular now, with the bill in the front. His hair is thicker, with his sideburns coming down past his ears. He won't get a haircut until his team loses a game.
Nobody talks about his love life now. He used to date an actress/singer, who gets more attention now for her handbags and her line of high-heeled shoes.
Tony Romo has grown up a bit as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, and Sunday he will return home to play the Green Bay Packers. It's still a special game to Romo -- his dimples give him away when he talks about it.
"It's always enjoyable," he said. "I know it's [going to be] fun and a great place to play. As you get older you've been there and done that, but it's going to be a tough game and a tough place to play."
He won't need as many tickets as before, but the requests still number in the double digits. Mom and Dad will make the trip from Burlington, Wis., where Romo grew up. His dad, Ramiro, was looking into getting a suite.
"His entire family and neighbors will be there," said former Cowboys teammate Marco Rivera, who also played for the Packers. "He's a small-town guy and everybody is going to be at the game and everybody is going to be talking about it. Tony is a simple guy."
When Romo and the Cowboys visit Lambeau Field, they will ride in on a four-game winning streak and a chance to make another statement on the big stage.
During this streak, Romo has been as good as anybody in the league. His 111.9 quarterback rating is second only to New England quarterback Tom Brady's 119. The Cowboys quarterback's nine touchdowns in that stretch are tied for the fourth most among all quarterbacks. Romo's 9.21 yards per attempt is second to New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees' 9.60.
Of all quarterbacks with four starts during the Cowboys' current streak, Romo has the least amount of interceptions -- one.
"The success he's having lately and how well he's been doing has been good for him. And their defense [the Packers'] is banged up a little bit too," said Romo's close friend and Cowboys nickel linebacker Bobby Carpenter. "I expect him to be excited going in. It's always fun to play in front of your home fans. That's where he's from, and I'm sure he's going to enjoy it."
Romo played an average game in his first visit as a starting quarterback to Lambeau, which came on Sept. 21, 2008. He completed only 17 of 30 passes for 260 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 27-16 victory. Romo was nervous the first go-round and tried to hide it. Still, his team won to improve to 3-0 on the season.
"A little excited, he tried not to let it show," receiver Patrick Crayton said. "It's his first time going back. A Brett Favre fan, a Packer fan, he grew up in Cheesehead country, and I'm pretty sure he was excited to play at Lambeau Field."
As he approaches his second visit, Romo's credentials continue to get better.
He is 33-14 as a starter, but his record in November is unreal -- 13-1. It's a figure he hopes to improve in front of family and friends in the stands and teammates on the sidelines.
"I've been there a few times now, so it feels like I'm going to win a football game and trying to do what we're supposed to this week," said Romo. "I think that it's a great place, great atmosphere, great fans, they know what they're doing."
Calvin Watkins covers the Dallas Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.