IRVING, Texas – Tony Romo is coming off the best season of his career playing behind an offensive line with three Pro Bowlers: Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin.
Now in his age-35 season, he very well could have essentially four first-round offensive linemen watching his back if La'el Collins – the top-20 talent who became arguably the most gifted undrafted rookie in league history – wins a starting job.
Needless to say, Romo was thrilled Collins chose to sign with the Cowboys on Thursday afternoon following a special dinner at team owner Jerry Jones' home. The guests that greeted Collins and his mother included head coach Jason Garrett, offensive line coach Frank Pollack, the aforementioned Pro Bowl linemen, tight end Jason Witten and, of course, Romo himself.
"Anytime you get an opportunity to get a guy like Collins, you should take advantage of that," Romo told reporters Friday night at the 2015 Emmitt Smith Celebrity Invitational Gala at the Dallas Omni Hotel. "It just goes to show the ability of our owner. When he sees someone like that, he sees a little bit in some ways himself. I think they could relate. As different as that may sound, it was the way he talked and communicated to him and his mom, it was a great thing to see."
At Collins' introductory press conference Thursday, Jones got emotional speaking about Collins' unfortunate journey from top prospect to undrafted due to meeting with Baton Rouge (La.) police regarding its investigation into the shooting death of a pregnant woman – an investigation in which Collins has never been considered a suspect.
Jones recounted what Collins' mother, Loyetta, told the group at dinner about her son's resolve to move forward with his life and career: "She said, 'My boy's been hit on the end of the nose hard. I wouldn't want to be in his way, and I'd advise nobody else to get in his way.'"
Many times Jones has recounted the day, now decades ago during trying financial times, when a rental car agent at Love Field in Dallas cut his credit card in half right in front of him. Looking back, it helped Jones see he could make it through any crisis in his life.
Now Collins is looking to do the same with the team and city he got to choose – the silver lining to going undrafted on a very difficult weekend personally and professionally.
Romo and the Cowboys couldn't be happier to have him.