- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2016

The past two seasons have been rough for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

Last season, Romo appeared in just four games after a collarbone fracture knocked him out after the second game of the season. Romo would return, only to re-injure his shoulder in the Thanksgiving game against the Carolina Panthers.

This season, Romo suffered a compression fracture in a vertebrae, an injury that will not only knock him out for the Cowboys season opener this Sunday against the New York Giants, but likely for a large portion of the season.

That leads one NFL analyst, ESPN’s Trent Dilfer, to believe Romo may never wear navy blue, metallic silver or white ever again.

“You might be talking to the biggest Tony Romo fan in the world,” Dilfer said on “Mike and Mike in the Morning.” “If there was a Tony Romo fan club, I would be in it. I think he’s fantastic. I don’t know if he’ll ever see the field again for the Dallas Cowboys.”

It’s a harsh reality for Romo. The 36-year-old quarterback has suffered three major injuries the last five times he’s taken the field for the Cowboys.

But not only is Romo’s health a concern, but the emergence of rookie Dak Prescott as Romo’s heir to the Dallas quarterback throne complicates Romo’s chances of seeing the football field again.

“[Dak Prescott] has something special to him,” Dilfer said. “And it’s not just the stats in preseason. It’s going back and watching the poise, watching the presence, watching the calmness to his body and eye, watching him on the sidelines, watching him getting deep into progressions and thinking, wow, he really played well. Let me go back to my notes when he was at Mississippi State. Let me go back to my study of him in college. And realized this is a kid that carried a program in the SEC on his shoulders. No moment was too big for him. [A player] that always played his best in the biggest situations.”

At Mississippi State, Prescott started as a freshman. His 9,376 yards smashed Mississippi’s State’s all-time passing yard total set by Wayne Madkin from 1998 to 2001, when Madkin threw for 6,336 yards in his career. Prescott’s 70 passing touchdowns is also the school record.

Additionally, Prescott rushed for 2,521 yards, ranking third all-time in school history. However, no player in Mississippi State history has rushed for as many touchdowns as Prescott, who ran it in 41 times.

Prescott has continued that production in his brief stints in the NFL. In three preseason games, Prescott has a 78 completion percentage, 451 passing yards on 39 completions, 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and 2 rushing touchdowns with 7.6 yards per carry.

That production, on top of Prescott’s fundamentals, have people talking about just how great Prescott could be.

“I had one person who has worked very closely with Tom Brady for a long time, who also got to work with Dak Prescott, say they have the exact same competitive temperament,” Dilfer said. “They’re relentless, they’re fierce, their work ethic is second to none.”

Last year, there was no one adequate enough to fill in Romo. If Prescott, drafted in fourth round this year, is able to succeed for Dallas in the first half of the season, Romo may find himself in a backup role when he returns to full health for the first time since he assumed the role in 2006.

But if Dilfer is correct, and Romo never steps on the field for the Cowboys again, it ends an era of Cowboys football. In 10 seasons as the Cowboys’ starter, Romo has thrown for 34,154 yards. He’s completed 65.3 percent of his passes. He’s thrown 247 touchdowns.

He’s the franchise leader in all three categories.

• Tommy Chalk can be reached at tchalk@washingtontimes.com.

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