Even though Jason Witten has retired from the NFL, the former Dallas Cowboys tight end has stayed busy.
One of the things on his agenda will be serving as the featured speaker for the annual All-Texomaland All Star Preps Awards Banquet on Monday to help the Herald Democrat honor the top high school athletes in Texoma.
“I'm excited to be a part of it,” Witten said in an interview with the Herald Democrat. “It's an awesome thing you guys are doing. We want to emphasize what they did on the field and on the court but also how you went about doing it. It's the relationships and how you did it.”
When Witten retired in early May, he did so with an eye on staying close to the game as he will be the lead analyst for Monday Night Football, starting in the fall, in addition to being more involved away from the sport.
“It's a new challenge for me,” Witten said. “I've enjoyed being around my family. A lot of people know my story and my circumstances. There were some special people in my life to get me to this point. To see kids and talk to them, that's something neat with this opportunity.”
The decision capped a career that will include Ring of Honor accolades at AT&T Stadium and eventual enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Witten is an 11-time Pro Bowler, a four-time All-Pro (two first-team selections) and he walked away as one of the top pass-catchers in NFL history. As the all-time reception and yardage leader for the Cowboys, Witten retired with the fourth-most catches — 1,152 — that puts him second-most for a tight end position behind Tony Gonzalez.
The only thing missing from his career was winning a Super Bowl ring.
In his 15-year career, he did not miss a game in his final 11 seasons and after his rookie season, he missed just two games.
“There's nothing like playing a sport, especially football for the Dallas Cowboys, America's Team,” Witten said. “I'll miss it. I already miss it. Like I said in my retirement speech, 'better three hours too soon than a minute too late.'”
It was a career that almost never happened, because Witten arrived at the University of Tennessee as a defensive end and resisting a move to offense midway through his first season there and almost transferred. Instead he went on to become one of the best to play his position.
Before that, he was a multi-sport athlete at Elizabethton High School in Tennessee, competing also in basketball, baseball and track.
“It's been a long time ago and unfortunately our perspective with high school athletes has changed,” Witten said. “You don't have to lock in on just one (sport). We kind of want to box these kids into — this is the sport you're going to play and this is the position you're going to play. I was a better professional football player because I was played basketball in high school.”
Presented by the Herald Democrat and Texoma Medical Center, All-Texomaland celebrates the accomplishments of more than 300 athletes from Grayson, Fannin and Collin counties. Awards will be presented to the Outstanding Player of the Year in each sport, as well as Male Athlete of the Year, Female Athlete of the Year, and Coach of the Year.
TMC is returning as the title sponsor for the event this year and as part of his appearance in Texoma, Witten will visit TMC patients before the banquet in a private appearance.
“I'm excited to get up there and see those kids,” Witten said. “Hopefully put a smile on their faces.”
It is the second straight year a member of the Cowboys has been the guest speaker — All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee headlined the festivities in 2017.
“To engage these kids at such an interesting age; you picked a winner with Sean, one of my dear friends not only in football but life,” Witten said. “That's my plan. I hope to do to the same. To do that and encourage them.”
The event will be held at the Texoma Event Center from 6-9 p.m. on June 11. More information about the event can be found by visiting heralddemocrat.com/alltexomaland. General admission tickets may be purchased for $50.
For more information or to learn about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Nate Rodriguez at 805-407-8548 or firstname.lastname@example.org.