CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) -- Tony Romo's No. 17 was officially retired by Eastern Illinois on Saturday, an experience the Dallas Cowboys quarterback called "humbling."
"You don't expect it," he said. "It's almost embarrassing that everybody wants to look at you and tell you that you did something good."
As Eastern Illinois' quarterback from 2000-02, Romo was named Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year three times while leading the Panthers to three straight Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearances. In 2002, Romo won the Walter Payton Award as the most outstanding offensive player in the FCS.
"The time I had here was an unbelievable time in my life, helped shape me in a lot of ways to become the person that I am today," Romo said.
Romo is the first Eastern Illinois player to have his number retired.
"It was such an honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame here, and with the jersey ceremony, it holds a special place in your heart," Romo said. "This is a very rewarding experience."
The quarterback's name is all over Eastern Illinois' record book. Romo finished his career as the Panthers' and the OVC career leader with 85 touchdown passes and was second with 8,059 yards total offense, 8,212 yards passing and 584 completions.
After going undrafted in 2003, Romo signed with the Cowboys but did not see the field until the 2006 season. His first start came against the Carolina Panthers in Week 8, resulting in a 35-14 victory. He is 30-17 as the Cowboys' starter.
With Dallas off this weekend, Romo was able to make his first official visit back to campus before focusing on next week's game against Atlanta.
"I expect our team to continue to grow," Romo said. "We're improving as the year's moving along. For us, it's all about improvement and stacking some wins together. If we're playing good football at the end of the year, we've got a chance to be where we want to be."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)