Towson workhorse Romeo now sharing load

Senior tailback adjusting to crowded backfield

October 10, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

One year after reaching the high point of his collegiate football career, Matt Romeo has been obliged to surrender some of the limelight.

"It's hard sometimes," said Towson's senior tailback. "I have to accept the fact that my role now is to share the spot. So, whenever I get in there, I have to make the best of my carries."

Through the misfortune of fellow backs Mikal Lundy and Ray Harris - both of whom were shelved by injury in the second game of last season - Romeo became the featured runner as a junior. He responded with 990 yards on the ground (fourth in the Patriot League), 30 pass receptions and a team-leading 10 touchdowns in 11 games.

His hard-working style made him a favorite among teammates and the coaching staff. But the returns of Lundy and Harris and a concussion Romeo suffered Sept. 20 during a helmet-to-helmet collision against Yale have restricted his playing time this season. Romeo missed most of the loss at Yale and all of Towson's defeat at Colgate but is expected back in the lineup for tomorrow's homecoming game against Holy Cross.

"We really missed him at Colgate because he adds so much to our offense," said coach Gordy Combs. "He's a quality inside runner, awfully strong, with a low center of gravity. Matt gets the hard yards and wears down a defense."

"I think my biggest asset is my vision," said Romeo. "I like to read the blocks, then just go north and south. I like to run downhill, get that positive yardage."

Now that all three tailbacks are healthy, Combs said he hopes to get Romeo at least 15 carries a game.

Romeo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, found Towson a "nice fit" when he came out of St. Joseph Regional High in New Milford, N.J., where he was named to the all-state team as a linebacker after his team won the state championship. He also excelled on offense, carrying for 2,300 yards and scoring 35 touchdowns in high school.

"Jermaine Pugh [Lehigh's top ball carrier] was the running back on the all-state team, so they put me at linebacker," said Romeo. "I thought to myself I could have played linebacker here [at Towson], but I don't think the coaches thought I was tall enough [5 feet 9]. I was used to playing two positions and my sophomore year I really missed linebacker. But not too many guys play two positions in college."

Called "a lunch-pail guy, one we can always count on," by Combs, Romeo is a criminal justice major who aspires to work in law enforcement, perhaps as an immigration officer or, ideally, with the FBI.

He will be there if Towson needs him, a rock who appreciates the ceremonies that will take place tomorrow, but is concentrating on business.

"That's a good honor [halftime dedication of the stadium to Johnny Unitas], but we've got to focus on what needs to be done," Romeo said. "We're not out of it in the league. This is crunch time."

Next for Towson

Matchup: Holy Cross (1-4, 1-1) vs. Towson (2-3, 1-1)

Site: Minnegan Field at Towson Stadium (to be renamed Johnny Unitas Stadium at halftime)

When: Tomorrow, 1 p.m.

Radio: WTMD (89.7 FM)

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