In one of the greatest moments in Dallas Cowboys franchise history; in the Third Round of the 2003 draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Jason Witten from Tennessee. With all that is wrong with today’s Cowboys, there is something very right about Jason. He is as deserving as any player ever to wear the Cowboy star on his helmet.
It’s so easy to forget his 2012 record breaking season (most receptions in a single season 110 and 18 in a single game by a tight end) and the amazing career he has had thus far for the Cowboys. Why? That is how he wants it. For him, it truly is a team game to win or lose and it’s all about winning a Super Bowl.
Bill Parcells knew he had something special in Jason. Confirmation came pretty quickly when in his rookie season playing for Bill he broke his jaw. He would miss only one game and he had three plates inserted.
Parcells knew that kind of toughness is something you can build a Championship team around. Bill’s blueprint for a Super Bowl always included a strong defense, led by an outstanding Linebacker, and a go to guy in the trenches for his Quarterback. Jason Witten was his Mark Bavaro and later on in 2005 DeMarcus Ware would be his Lawrence Taylor. If only he could have stayed to finish the plan.
Jason was recruited by the University of Tennessee as a Defensive End prospect but once he switched to Tight End he quickly flourished. He never lost that Defensive End mentality. That was never more evident than in 2007 when he ran for a 53 yard reception against the Eagles after losing his helmet. Even the biggest Cowboy haters reluctantly had to smile at that play.
The greatest testament to his dedication and courage happened this year in a preseason game against the Raiders in mid-August. After being tackled he suffered a lacerated spleen; a very serious medical condition. The Cowboys not wanting to risk his health and legal issues told Jason the only way he could play to start the season was if he could find a Doctor to medically clear him against the Giants. It wasn’t easy but he found one.
He was not effective in that Giant game, catching only 2 passes for 10 yards but his courage inspired the team and the Cowboys won the opener 24-17. His next two games would not be any better for him; catching a combined 66 yards on 6 receptions against Seattle and Tampa Bay respectively. He definitely was not healthy but you have to wonder if some of it was mental. Perhaps, and rightly so, he was hearing his wife’s voice. To risk your life for football, when you have a wife and two kids? That must have been really tough on him, probably more than the injury itself.
Nonetheless, in true Witten fashion not only does he overcome the slow start of the first three games; he ends up breaking the all-time NFL single season record for Tight Ends. Amongst his personal achievements you can also add being an 8 time pro bowler and the Cowboy record for most career receptions with 806.
This year around the Cowboys there is a lot of talk about a window. Is it closed, cracked, still open? I can tell you this, Jason Witten is now 30 and even though I live in New York City, when he retires and they put his name up in the Ring of Honor I will be there at the Stadium. I owe that to him in appreciation for all he has left on the field and given me as a fan. A much bigger debt is owed by his teammates, coaches and the Owner. So before the window does close, go help him win a Super Bowl Championship.