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Read It Again
Off the field, Bill Romanowski was a caring father and devoted husband.
On the field, Romo was unstoppable, terrorizing the NFL for sixteen brutal years.
Some players called him a throwback, some called him mean, some called him dirty. But they all respected him and would much rather have played with him than against him. Coaches loved Romo for the heart and soul he gave to the game. He was rewarded with two Pro Bowl appearances and four Super Bowl rings, but it all came at a heavy price: dozens of concussions that have led to dizzy spells, memory lapses . . . and questionable choices that undermined his integrity. Would he do it all over again? Romo the intimidating linebacker would in a heartbeat. Bill Romanowski, however, would do things differently today.
Whether it was in high school, at Boston College, or with the NFL, Romo vowed to himself that he would outwork and outhustle everyone else. Practice? Loved it; he'd play like it was a game and attack his teammates as if they were opponents. Game day? He'd work himself into a state of invincibility. If you were a tight end, running back, or quarterback with the wrong uniform, you were marked for elimination. Nutrition? He would consult top nutritionists, looking for the best foods, an extraordinary range of supplements, and alternative remedies, anything that would help give him an edge. It would lead to a controversial relationship with BALCO.
Treatment? He would try almost anything that would help with his performance, keep his body healthy, and help it recover from the beatings he took and gave on Sundays. Phentermine, THG, hyperbaric chambers, IVs. He would experiment with substances and methods that the NFL had never heard of, and he'd become an expert who teammates and friends would turn to. Endurance? He never missed a game to injury, and once played an entire season with a partially torn knee ligament. Intimidation? From trash talk to mind games to nasty hits and breaking fingers, Romo would roam the field seeking confrontation -- and usually find it.
Through it all -- through his years with the San Francisco 49ers, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Denver Broncos, and the Oakland Raiders -- Romo was driven by something else: the fear of failure, the fear of losing it all. Who knew what a head coach or an owner would be thinking or what young player was in the wings ready to take his hard-won position. He didn't dare allow someone else to decide his fate, so he did whatever it took to live his dreams and ward off the dragons of self-doubt that pushed him . . . until his body betrayed him and his morality was compromised.
"Romo" is a jolting, candid, and inspiring rocket ride into the heart of the NFL and a look at what it costs to be an elite athlete today in a world of impossible expectations. Read it -- and try not to wince.
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