IRVING, Texas (AP) -Wearing jeans and an untucked Dallas Cowboys golf shirt, Tony Romo treated Tuesday as if it was any other day of work.
Well, there were a few difference. Such as the fact he brought mom and dad to team headquarters.
And the $67.5 million contract he showed up to sign.
On one of the biggest days of his life, Romo remained the average guy he's been since joining the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent five years ago. He said he was humbled by the $11.5 million signing bonus and by cementing a spot in the lineage of Don Meredith-to-Roger Staubach-to-Troy Aikman, but he also insisted the only thing that's going to change is his tax bracket.
Want proof? He's even planning to keep his apartment - and his roommate - despite having the third-highest annual salary among NFL quarterbacks, ahead of Tom Brady and Brett Favre.
``I never really thought this was a goal along the way. I still don't necessarily perceive it as a goal, but it's something really neat that I get to experience,'' Romo said, flashing the dimpled aw-shucks grin that's helped him land dates with gorgeous actresses and singers.
``It's special just to be a part of this. The best feeling by far is that the organization, the Jones family, our coaches and everyone say, `Hey, you're our guy. You're the guy we want to go to the next level with. We want to get back to the Super Bowl around here and win these things.' That means everything, more than the money ever could.''
If Romo's attitude seems too good to be true, there's a good reason for it. The story of how he got to this point fits the same description.
Undrafted out of college, he turned down $25,000 signing bonuses elsewhere and took $10,000 from the Cowboys because he liked his chances of beating out the competition. Before last season, his fourth, he still hadn't thrown a pass, but asked for a multimillion-dollar contract as a challenge to his bosses, telling them the more they paid him, the more likely they were to play him.
He got the deal and, eventually, the playing time. The contract numbers show he's made the most of it.
``You can either do this or you can't,'' he said. ``I didn't know if I was, but I put myself in position to succeed.''
Romo thought about what the big contract means while sitting in bed Monday night. It was still on his mind when he woke up Tuesday morning. By the time he met the media in the afternoon, he had it sorted out.
``It almost feels like we accomplished something here today, but it doesn't,'' he said. ``This sets you up financially and does all the things that you somewhat hoped for in life, but you don't set it out as a goal when you start out as a football player. This is something that more or less comes along the way.''
Team owner Jerry Jones called Romo ``the man for the 2000s,'' adding, ``I wouldn't have done this if I didn't think he gives us a chance to win Super Bowls.''
It took a while for him to come to that conclusion.
Jones' hesitations started during the 2003 draft, when then-offensive coordinator Sean Payton lobbied hard for Romo. Jones figured it was because they went to the same school, Eastern Illinois.
Once Romo arrived, the Cowboys went through Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe before turning to him last October.
Romo started 5-1, setting records and turning heads. He got Dallas into the playoffs, then knocked the team out by flubbing the hold of a short field goal in Seattle. He revealed more of his character with how he responded: crying and apologizing to teammates that night, then weeks later asking to be the holder at the Pro Bowl.
By then, Jones believed in Romo enough not to draft Brady Quinn when he had the chance in April - but not enough to offer a big contract without seeing him play more.
Forced to earn his money, Romo did. The Cowboys are 6-1, tied for tops in the NFC, and have the conference's No. 1 offense. Romo has the most yards passing and touchdowns in the NFC.
``It is a feel-good story,'' coach Wade Phillips said. ``The best part of the story is he's a great person, a great guy to be around. He doesn't have an ego bigger than the team. The great ones I've been around - the John Elways, the Jim Kellys - it's the same way.''
Romo has shown off his arm with a club-record four 300-yard games and his feet with a wild scramble for a first down on a snap that went over his head and rolled 33 yards behind him. He also found a way to win in Buffalo despite committing six turnovers.
Jones also likes that Romo has remained grounded while holding one of the most high-profile jobs in U.S. pro sports. Don't believe it? Well, ``Entertainment Tonight'' sent a reporter to Tuesday's news conference to ask Romo about bumping into Britney Spears in Los Angeles a few days ago.
``Having all the adulation and interest, how do you handle that? I've seen doctors, lawyers, older, more-seasoned people blow their whole families up over a little success,'' Jones said. ``He's handled it really well.''
Combine it all and you understand why Jones likes knowing Romo will be the face of the franchise in 2009, when the Cowboys move into a $1 billion, 100,000-seat stadium, a rendering of it serving as a backdrop for Tuesday's announcement.
It was no coincidence.
``I told our guys to put that behind us,'' Jones said, ``because Tony coming in for the long term is very symbolic of what we're doing.''

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