Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Bright lights, big city
Many sports heroes started on a small stage and worked their way up to the big time. Here’s a look at some of the biggest names that came from humble beginnings.
Walter Payton stayed in his home state of Mississippi to play college football, but his collegiate success made it quite apparent that Payton was meant for a larger stage. Where did Payton play college ball? | See early photos
Jerry Rice is in the pantheon of great NFL receivers. His illustrious career overshadowed his humble beginnings. Rice was the 49ers’ No. 1 pick in the 1985 draft, coming out of a small college in the South. Where did Rice get his start? | See early photos
Why do coaches always say that defense and rebounding win championships? Because of Bill Russell, who made defense and rebounding into an art form. Russell began his reign of dominance at a small Golden State institution. Where did Russell play in college? | See him then
As a ballhandler and passer, Bob Cousy was way ahead of his time. In an era when point guards walked the ball upcourt right-handed and dumped it inside to big men, he raced around, dribbling ambidextrously and firing behind-the-back and no-look passes to his teammates. He no doubt honed those skills at the small college he attended in New England. Where did Cousy play in college? | See early photos
John Stockton is in the unique position of having played for a high school and college known by the same name. Where did Stockton attend college? | High school? See him on the college court
Born and raised in Summerfield, Louisiana, Karl Malone grew used to small-town settings. Malone remained a big fish in a small pond when he attended a small college in his home state. He broke into the mainstream by taking his school to the NCAA tournament for the first time in history. Where did Malone get his start? | See him then
Perhaps Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of experience playing high school quarterback led him to make his home at this small Mid-American Conference school. Once Roethlisberger took his place as the starter, he crushed many of the school’s passing records. Where did Roethlisberger get his start? | See him on the field in college
Athleticism has never been a problem for Tony Romo. His natural ability allowed him to have the most successful collegiate career in history at his small college. Romo reached such a legendary status in the school’s annals that they retired his college jersey. Which school honored Romo? | See him wearing his college jersey
Donald Driver made big noise at the small university he attended, where he stood out as both a football and track star. Where did Driver first make a name for himself? Watch him on “Dancing With The Stars”
Marques Colston, whose father (his name?) played in the Canadian Football League, seemed destined to hit the gridiron. After a standout career in Pennsylvania’s high school football scene, Colston headed north to play on a seemingly small college stage. Where did Colston get his start? | See him in his college jersey
Vincent Jackson exemplified excellence in high school in a variety of areas. He played both football and basketball, but his outstanding grades earned him acceptance to Ivy League school Columbia. However, Jackson spurned Columbia for a different institution. Where did Jackson play college ball? | See early photos
Before George Gervin played for the San Antonio Spurs, nobody had heard of “the finger roll.” He pioneered the move while splitting time between two smaller colleges. Gervin played college ball here | And here
Elgin Baylor — a native of Washington, D.C. — journeyed across the country to play college basketball in Washington state. Where did Baylor get his start? | See photos of him in college
Bart Scott created quite a buzz as a high school player in Detroit, but his grades kept him from receiving scholarship offers from big-name football powerhouses. A small state school in Illinois took a chance on Scott (see photos) and fully received the bang for its buck. Where did Scott get his start?
As a high-profile receiver for the Dallas Cowboys — the premier glamour team in the NFL — it might come as a shock that Miles Austin didn’t play collegiately for a big-name institution. Instead, Austin put up numbers for a college in his home state of New Jersey. Where did Austin get his start? | See early pics of him on the field
It’s not unusual to hear Larry Bird referred to as Larry Legend, given his legendary status with the Boston Celtics and stardom on his college team. Bird’s exploits as a college star made him famous — especially when he led his hometown team against Magic Johnson and big, bad Michigan State in the 1979 NCAA championship (who won?). Where did Larry Bird play college ball? | See photos
Scottie Pippen remains the most heralded alum to come out of his small university in Arkansas. Since Pippen’s departure, the school moved to Division II for athletic competition. Where did Pippen get his start? | See him playing college ball
Despite being born in New Jersey, Dennis Rodman spent his formative years in Texas. Before making an impact in the NBA, Rodman played basketball at a small community college and then made the relative jump to a Division II school to finish out his collegiate career. Where did Rodman get his start? | See him in his college jersey
It’s safe to venture a guess that Kroy Biermann is living out a small-town boy’s dreams, coming out of the Big Sky Conference. He’s now a contributor to one of the top teams in the NFC (which one?) and is married to a reality TV star (who? | see photos of them together). Where did Biermann get his start? | Early photos of him playing
Joe Flacco has some impressive achievements associated with his tenure as the quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. After starting his college career as a backup quarterback at Pittsburgh, Flacco (see photos) transferred to this smaller school, where he finally saw legitimate playing time as a starter. Where did Flacco transfer for more time on the field?
The Cromartie family knows how to produce football players. Dominique’s cousin, Antonio Cromartie, also plays in the NFL. Unlike Antonio, who played collegiately at Florida State, Dominique (see photos) did not play college ball at a high-profile school. Where did Dominique play college ball?
Cortland Finnegan (see photos) has made a name for himself in the NFL as a feisty cornerback, but the magic really began when he starred at this out-of-the-way college. Where did Finnegan first make his mark?
Bonzi Wells hails from Muncie, Indiana, and he chose to stay close to home when playing college basketball. Where did Wells get his start? | See him wearing his college jersey
Robert Mathis (see photos) has been a stalwart at the linebacker positions for the Indianapolis Colts since the organization drafted him in 2003. Mathis’ reputation of wreaking havoc at this Southwestern Athletic Conference college clearly preceded him. Where did Mathis get his start?
Brandon Jacobs (see photos) started his NFL career with the New York Giants (his team now?). Jacobs was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2005 draft and was heralded coming out of this Midwestern school. Where did Jacobs play college ball?
Ex-NFL player Marcellus Wiley was no slouch in the academics department. As the valedictorian of his high school class and National Honor Society member, it’s logical that he chose to play college football at this institution of higher learning. At what Ivy League school did Wiley play ball? What’s Wiley up to now?