Aug. 20, 1999
Turlock, CA - Someday, Cal center John Romero would like to be a forensic pathologist in the coroner's office - dissecting the deceased, piecing together clues and analyzing the causes relevant to their death.
For now, the senior All-America candidate spends his time analyzing and dissecting defensive schemes, figuring out the best way to stop stunts and blitzes dead in their tracks.
And to hear the experts talk, Romero will have to put his pathology career on indefinite hold, because one lucky NFL team is going to be waving wads of cash in his face next spring and he seems destined to have a long tenure in the pros.
"He's got to stay healthy, but if he does, he could be a first round draft choice," said former All-Pro Ed White, who's in his first year as Cal's offensive line coach. "He has the body, the explosiveness and the temperament to be a great one. He's the heart and soul of our line this year and he's going to get better with his work ethic."
Romero is attracting a lot of attention entering his final collegiate season. As a mainstay on a Cal offensive line that surrounded 58 sacks last season, that may surprise some. However, one look at his 6-3, 325-pound frame, one glance at his 440-pound bench press mark, one view of his initial burst off the line of scrimmage during games, erases all doubts.
That's why the NFL Draft Reports lists him as a first team All-America selection. That's why Lindy's magazine projects him as the No. 5 center in the nation. That's why many view him as potentially a prototypic NFL standout.
That's also a far cry from his quiet entry into the college football world as a lightly recruited 260-pound lineman from nearby Berkeley HS four years ago.
He was ignored by most of the top schools who failed to realize Romero's dedicated approach to weight training that would eventually add almost 70 pounds to his frame and make him an anchor that any team in the country would be proud to call its offensive line cornerstone. Still, Romero says he would have likely stayed home anyway, feeling comfortable at Cal where he often walked to for lunch during his high school years.
Romero doesn't get all that excited about his many pre-season accolades, or the close scrutiny that NFL pay him.
Informed of his selection as the top center prospect in the country by NFL Draft Reports, Romero barely raises an eyebrow and mutter 'That's nice," while resuming his lunch.
"I'm a quiet person," he says. "Maybe it's because I'm an only child, but that's just my make-up."
Romero will offer his belief that the 1999 Cal offensive line is "underestimated" and that his goal this year is to have the offensive line limit opposition to an average of less than one sack per contest.
He won't have the luxury of much practice time this year as the coaching staff has limited his duties during the pre-season to very little contact work, since he's coming off a shoulder injury last season. "He's too important to us to let him bang his shoulder around during practice," says head coach Tom Holmoe. "As a veteran, he doesn't need the work. We want to make sure he's ready for Rutgers (Cal's opening game)."
The senior center has been a standard in Cal's line-up since early in his sophomore season. In fact, his most cherished memory as a collegian was Cal's trip to Louisiana Tech in October of 1997. He turned age 21 the day before the game, then made his debut in Cal's line-up the next evening. Even though Cal lost the game, the offense moved up and down the field and Romero began to feel at home as a starter.
He has evolved into a leadership role on Cal's offense, but he isn't the rah-rah type to get in teammates' faces. "I'll say something when something needs to be said," says Romero. "But, I believe everyone's his own man and should know his responsibilities. I prefer to lead by example."
That example may just lead Cal into a bowl game after the 1999 season. That would be a fitting end to John Romero's collegiate career.