Before Michael Jordan was making Bryon Russell fall with a killer crossover and draining the go ahead jumper to win his sixth NBA title with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan was a skinny, determined athlete dominating the competition at Laney High (Wilmington, N.C.).
Before Adrian Peterson was trucking opposing defenses and racking up 2,097 yards in a single season for the Minnesota Vikings he was shining bright under the Friday night lights at Palestine High (Palestine, Texas), averaging 12 yards a carry and scoring 32 touchdowns.
Before any athlete can become legendary they have to lay their foundation in the high school ranks.
Each week I’ll chat with a high-profile athlete’s former coach, mentor, family member, etc., and reminisce about their high school playing days; everything from the greatest moment to the wackiest story.
Today I caught up with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s high school football and basketball coach at Burlington (Burlington, Wis.) Steve Berezowitz.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Tony on the field back in high school?
Steve Berezowitz: He started playing as a junior and the biggest thing that I can remember is his first varsity game when he threw for about 350 yards. It was just the way that he did it. He didn’t have technique, but you just didn’t see a lot of kids put those numbers up in their debut. We knew he was going to be a star for us. I don’t think I can say I knew he’d be an NFL quarterback, but I knew he’d be pretty good.
JJ: What’s your best memory of Tony off the field back then?
SB: I remember playing HORSE in the gym with Tony after practice every day. It didn’t matter if we had a good or bad day of practice.
JJ: I know you were his basketball coach as well; which was his better sport back then?
SB: I think he always thought he’d play college basketball and he could have. He was an all state player his senior year and he averaged about 24.5 points a game. He was really, really good, but he’d already committed to Eastern for football. I think everyone thought he was a better basketball player at the time. I think he knew that his ceiling was higher in football though.
JJ: Give me his top moment on the hardwood.
SB: What I remember most was his last game. He dropped 39 on a team and he single-handedly almost beat them on their home court. They were really, really good. At the end, their fans respected his performance so much that he got a standing ovation. It was pretty crazy and I remember just being sad that I’d never coach him again. He was really good.
JJ: He hangs out at Duke sometimes during their hoops season; was he a Duke-type of player?
SB: I actually think he was because he was a kid that put the team first. He did whatever he had to do in order to get his team the win and that’s what they do. He wasn’t flashy but he had a great first step. He was a stat filler. He did everything. He had quick hands and great vision.
JJ: What was a random talent that he had away from sports?
SB: (Laughs) You’ve seen the DIRECTV commercial? That’s the first time I’ve ever seen him act! He thinks he’s a good singer, but his 80’s renditions aren’t very good. I do remember that he was actually pretty good in tennis.
JJ: Tony wasn’t a guy with a laundry list of offers, did that shock you?
SB: Yeah, I mean he really didn’t get recruited by anybody. My dad was trying to get him at UW-Whitewater where he was the head coach. They’d won six national championships at Division III. They were about the only ones that recruited him to play both sports. Eastern was the only other team that offered him in football. It’s crazy to think that now.
JJ: Do you think a lot of his criticism is unfair?
SB: Oh definitely. It comes with the territory, but it’s tough on guys in his circle like us. I think it bothers us more than him though. A lot of us don’t watch Sportscenter or go on the blogs the day after a loss because we can’t take it. He handles it well; he loves being the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and he takes everything like a professional. I feel like he’s done an exceptional job in handling everything.
JJ: When it’s all said and done will Tony Romo be a Hall of Fame quarterback?
SB: Well, there are definitely going to need to be some rings attached if so. I sure hope he’ll get them. I think they’re all excited about the direction that he’s taking them in, but the stars have to align for the Hall of Fame. Obviously, he’ll have to remain injury-free and he’ll need to get the ring. I think they’ve got a team that will definitely put them on that track. I think he’s definitely in that mix if you look at his numbers over the course of his career. I know I’ll be rooting for him to do it!
Here’s Romo vs. Duke’s national champ Quinn Cook.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY