Talented, tough, considerate, courageous, influential, and successful; these adjectives only start to describe what Jason Witten has brought to the National Football League, both on and off the field. Throughout his tremendous ten year career, Witten has always been considered one of the most true “class acts” in the game, simply putting up a Pro Bowl quality season year after year, while constantly being recognized as a true man for others off the field.
2012 was no different for Witten, a finalist in this year’s voting for the Byron “Whizzer” White Award. Jason not only was elected to his eighth Pro Bowl in nine years, but he was also recognized as an All-Pro for the sixth time after a record setting season. This season, Jason set the NFL record for most catches by a tight end in both a single game (18), and a full season (110). He also became the Cowboys all-time leader in receptions with 806, which is third all time for a tight end behind Shannon Sharpe (815), and Tony Gonzalez (1,242). A University of Tennessee Alum, Witten also won his third “NFL Alumni Tight End of the Year” award in 2012, and all this after falling to the third round in the 2003 draft. You got to believe plenty of teams are kicking themselves for passing on him, especially after the way the league has changed to incorporate the tight end more in today’s offense.
Along with this nomination, Witten is also a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the year award, in addition to already taking home the Bart Starr man of the year Award a few weeks ago. All of these awards recognize Witten’s tremendous off the field work, as well as his courage that rubs off so well on others.
Helping the community is where Witten shines just as bright however, thanks in part to his SCOREkeepers program, which is part of his SCORE foundation. According to Witten’s website, JasonWitten82.com, SCOREkeepers is a unique initiative placing full-time, trained male mentors in battered women’s shelters throughout Texas. The mentors seek to demonstrate positive male behavior to the children living in these shelters in an effort to break the cycle of violence that plagues families affected by abuse. With the help of generous grants from the Allstate Foundation, Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation has placed SCOREkeepers in six shelters across the Lone Star State – The Family Place (Dallas), SafeHaven (Fort Worth), Family Violence Prevention Services (San Antonio), New Beginning Center (Garland), Denton County Friends of the Family (Denton Co.) and Safe Place (Austin). In 2010, the foundation launched a new domestic violence prevention program called “Coaching Boys Into Men” in high schools across Arlington, Texas. The program trains coaches to educate their players on the dangers of dating violence.
In addition to his distinguished work in the battle against domestic violence, Witten also built the Jason Witten Learning Center, complete with a state-of-the-art recording studio, at the East Dallas Boys & Girls Club center in March 2008. A month later, he dedicated another one at the Boys & Girls Club in his hometown of Elizabethton, Tenn. Then, he dedicated a third such center at the Halls/Powell Boys & Girls Club in Knoxville, Tenn., where he played college football at the University of Tennessee.
In early summer of 2008, Jason furthered his commitment to NFL Play 60 with a local media campaign in North Texas with the Ad Council. He cut radio and TV spots to run in the North Texas area promoting Play 60 during a summer media road block. He also spoke at the press conference hosted at Texas Stadium to help kick off the local campaign. A part of the press conference included youth from Boys & Girls Clubs of Arlington participating in physical fitness activities including Hoola-Hoop, Jump Rope and of course a little football! Since then, Witten has strengthened his commitment to youth fitness by launching the Play.Move.SCORE program at Boys & Girls Clubs centers in Dallas and Fort Worth. The program, sponsored by UnitedHealthcare, is a year-long initiative to get kids active and eating healthy.
Every June, Witten returns to his hometown of Elizabethton, Tenn., to host the Annual Jason Witten Football Camp. With approximately 1,200 kids attending each year, the camp is one of the largest free football camps in America. Jason and his wife Michelle, a registered nurse, also funded the construction of a brand new Jason Witten-themed emergency waiting room at The Children’s Hospital at Johnson City Medical Center in Johnson City, Tenn. The project was dedicated in 2009.
Witten’s work in the community has also earned him the Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP in 2008, along with the 2010 Pro Football Weekly Humanitarian of the Year Award. Also in recognition of his courage and toughness, Witten received the NFL Iron Man Award in 2009, as well as Howie Long’s “Toughest Man in the NFL” award in 2007. Witten’s toughness was again proven this past year when he played opening night just three weeks after lacerating his spleen.
Jason and Michelle have two sons, C.J. and Cooper, and a daughter, Landry. They currently reside in Southlake, Texas.