Dario Romero feels like he’s in a good place these days. Not the place he had dreamed of being at this point in his professional football career, but a good, solid, comfortable place, nonetheless.
Romero, a former standout at Lewis and Clark High School and two-time All-Big Sky Conference defensive lineman at Eastern Washington University, is midway through the second season of his second stint with the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos.
He is also less than four years removed from the glamour of the NFL, where he was a backup defensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins for three seasons before being released in 2005. And the reality of that cruel cut still haunts him.
“The most disappointing thing was that I had my best year in 2004,” Romero recalled recently during a telephone interview from the Eskimos’ headquarters in Edmonton, Alberta. “I got my most playing time that fall, and really felt like I should have stayed in the NFL.
“But all things happen for a reason, I guess.”
Romero originally signed with Edmonton in the spring of 2001 after finishing his college career at EWU, where he was a four-year letterwinner and three-year starter, amassing 169 tackles – including 40 for losses – and breaking up five passes.
But he spent only one season with the Eskimos before signing a free-agent contract with Miami in 2002 and eventually working his way into the regular rotation on the Dolphins defensive line.
He played in eight games in 2003 and 14 in 2004, when he had a hand in a career-best 35 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks.
“I had the time of my life down there,” the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Romero said of his brief stay in Miami. “But up here, I’d say I enjoy it even more because it’s not so demanding of my time. The goal, obviously, is the same; it’s to win. But at this level, things aren’t so magnified, and the stress is a lot less.”
Romero admits getting cut by the Dolphins hit him hard in the wallet. And the divorce proceedings that were playing out between him and his first wife, Rebecca, also ended up taking a financial toll.
“Getting released was a blow financially, and then I ended up paying whatever it was as the result of the divorce,” recalled Romero, who has a son, Dario Jr., who is now 6 years old, from his first marriage. “The pay cut hurt, but the divorce was more of a relief than anything else, because (the marriage) was not a good situation.
“The hardest part of that, of course, was having a 1-year-old at the time and realizing I wouldn’t see him as much. But other than that it was a relief.”
Romero, who has since remarried, took a year off to gather himself following the turbulent end to his stay in Miami. But in 2006 he returned to the CFL and spent two seasons with the Montreal Alouettes prior to re-signing with Edmonton in 2008.
In his first year back with the Eskimos, Romero had a hand in 30 tackles, including six sacks, and also recovered a fumble. In six games this summer, he has made 11 tackles and three sacks while playing alongside another former EWU standout, Greg Peach, who has earned a starting spot with the Esks as a CFL rookie.
“He’s a great guy to have around,” Romero said of Peach, who won the Buck Buchanan Award as the nation’s top NCAA Football Championship Subdivision defensive player at Eastern last fall. “He’s playing really well right now, and we trade a lot of stories from our days at Eastern.
“We actually live in the same building, so we hang out all the time.”
Romero’s second wife, Tiffany, is living in Spokane – where her husband still spends the offseason – along with their two sons, Waylon, 3, and Miles, 1. Waylon was named after the late country music star Waylon Jennings.
This is the first season since his return to the CFL that Romero has not had his family with him in Canada, and he says it is not an ideal situation.
“My wife is working back there (in Spokane),” he said. “She and the boys come to visit each month, but I don’t see them nearly as much as I would like.”
Still, Romero seems perfectly content with his situation.
“It’s not exactly what I wanted,” he said, “but I’m 31 years old and still playing football, so I can’t complain at all. I’m at a point in my life now where I pretty much feel my opportunity for the NFL is over, and I feel like I have found a home here in Edmonton.
“I’m a team captain, one of veterans on the team, and I’m surrounded by a bunch of good guys. I just love it.”