The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News


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Eastern’s NFL alums discuss the state of college football

Aidan Cusack
Four of Eastern’s NFL alumni. From left to right: Jimmy Garoppolo, Tony Romo, Sean Payton, Mike Shanahan.

Four Eastern alumni, brimming with National Football League accolades, materialized for a 40-minute press conference prior to Eastern athletics Evening with the Champions.

Tony Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo, Sean Payton and Mike Shanahan touched on everything from their favorite spots in Charleston to their most memorable moments at Eastern. Some of the alums talked about the ever-changing state of college football; A much discussed topic since the House ruling mandating power five conferences (Big 10, Pac-12, SEC, ACC, Big 12) to pay their student athletes.

14-year quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo, brought up how difficult it might be for coaches to retain players at Eastern.

“It feels like everyone is a free agent, every year,” said Romo. “Think, if you were in the NFL and everyone was a free agent every year, people would say ‘Woah, there needs to be something.’ I don’t have the answer.”

Romo went on to note why he thinks Eastern should be a popular program for transfers.

“We are recruiting these young kids, trying to let them know how special this program is,” said Romo. “When you come here, you not only get the advice of our incredible coach Wilkerson, you get a lot of stuff that Mike Shanahan brought. Sean Payton. Jimmy Garoppolo.

Bob Spoo. Dino Babers. Roy Wittke. A ton of great people that you don’t get at other schools, especially at this level. But now [coaches] also have to recruit [their] own players.”

Romo wrapped up his dialogue with an appeal to the student athlete.

“Alot of people are talking about it effecting the game; I don’t necessarily believe that,” said Romo. “I got three young boys. You want them to be able to put themselves in the best position possible for success, any parent wants that for their kid. However, think of the coaches and what they have to do to try and keep these kids. It’s almost impossible.”

Longtime San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo dove into the name, image and likeness (NIL) discussion.

“It’s the wild west out there man,” said Garoppolo. “With this NIL, kids are getting paid. I have teammates now that are rookies that are getting paid less than they were in college.”

One of Garoppolo’s current teammates exemplifies the payment disparities between collegiate and professional football. Los Angeles Rams second year quarterback, Stetson Bennett, raked in nearly $1 million worth of NIL deals during his 2022 season at the University of Georgia.

His base contract was $750,000 for the 2023 NFL season.

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark embodies an extreme example of the same payment imbalance. The former University of Iowa women’s basketball icon made millions of dollars from NIL deals yet stands to pull a measly $76,535 from her base WNBA contract.

Current Denver Broncos head coach, Sean Payton, mentioned the ease of transferring in the current college athletics landscape, and the difficulty while he was in college.

“There are a lot of exit doors,” said Payton. “I can’t think about how many times, if there was a portal has I walked across the field back to Douglas Hall (currently Powell-Norton) where I would have been like ‘Man’. You had to figure it out.”

Click here for the full interview with Eastern’s NFL alumni.

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