CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Matt Moore, like every undrafted quarterback, is trying to become the next Tony Romo.
Well, almost. The Carolina Panthers rookie insists that if he does make it big, he won't live Romo's famous bachelor life.
``I'm married,'' Moore said. ``I've got my Jessica Simpson at home.''
Marital status aside, Moore has taken an initial path similar to the Dallas Cowboys quarterback - in less time.
Romo, who is coming off a rare poor game in Dallas' loss to Philadelphia Sunday when his singer-actress girlfriend watched from a luxury box, had to wait until his fourth season to make his first NFL start. Last year, at Carolina's Bank of America Stadium, Romo finally got his chance, leading the Cowboys to 25 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a 35-14 win.
It cemented Romo as Dallas' starter. He's since gotten two Pro Bowl invitations and a big contract, and dated country music singer Carrie Underwood before Simpson.
Moore, a rookie, made his first start in the same stadium last week, three months after he was cut by the Cowboys. He engineered three fourth-quarter scoring drives in the Panthers' surprising 13-10 win over Seattle.
Moore has been the toast of the town since. And on Saturday night, he'll get to face Romo and his former team when the Panthers host the Cowboys.
``His story is great,'' Moore said of Romo. ``He's definitely an inspiration.''
While Romo was overlooked after playing at low-profile Eastern Illinois, Moore rolled into UCLA thinking he'd be the starter. He was for a while, but eventually lost his job to Drew Olson. Moore quit school, and thought about becoming a baseball player after being drafted in the 22nd round by the Los Angeles Angels.
He eventually decided to try football again and transferred to Oregon State, where he threw for over 5,700 yards in two seasons. It wasn't good enough to be drafted, so Moore signed a rookie free agent deal with Dallas.
He quickly befriended Romo.
``During camp we were together a lot,'' Moore said. ``We would talk. Any knowledge he had, he'd give it to me and try to help me out.''
Moore completed 21 of 29 passes for 182 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions and had a passer rating of 100.1 in the preseason with Dallas. Still, it was hard to make an impression on the Romo-dominated team.
``I don't remember Matt a lot,'' Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears said this week.
Spears was asked if he remembered what Moore looked like.
``A little bit,'' Spears claimed. ``He went to North Carolina didn't he?''
No, that was Matt Baker, another QB released early in training camp.
Spears' memory is fuzzy because Dallas decided to keep only two quarterbacks, and Moore was one of the final cuts.
``We liked him. But nobody liked him enough to draft him. Our team or anybody else's,'' Dallas coach Wade Phillips said. ``But we did like him as a free agent. We have a quarterback here who has done pretty well as a free agent.''
The Cowboys had hoped to re-sign Moore to the practice squad. But Carolina was looking for a quarterback after Brett Basanez was placed on injured reserve. It took less than a day for the Panthers to sign Moore.
The Panthers never thought he'd play this season, but then Jake Delhomme, David Carr and Vinny Testaverde all suffered injuries.
Moore got into his first game in Week 5, and Romo sent him a congratulatory text message afterward. He played briefly in five other games, but was hardly impressive with a 21.1 passer rating and no touchdowns.
Still, with Testaverde banged up and Carr ineffective, Moore got the call against Seattle and took advantage.
The key for Moore now is keep it going. He's yet to throw a TD pass and he'll be tested against the Cowboys in a nationally televised night game.
``I saw a guy with a lot of potential, a lot of talent,'' Dallas receiver Terrell Owens said. ``Obviously it showed last week with his start. He played well.''
Saturday's matchup will come less than a week after Romo's personal life was on display when Simpson watched Dallas' loss to Philadelphia while wearing a pink Romo jersey.
It's unlikely Moore's wife, Tara, will get that much air time in Saturday's nationally televised game.
``I know she's a country music fan,'' Moore said of his wife. ``So she liked Carrie Underwood.''
---
AP Sports Writers Jaime Aron and Stephen Hawkins in Irving, Texas, contributed to this report.
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