Unless you’re a wiry defensive back on an opposing team, there is little to nothing bad to be said about Cowboys’ tight end Jason Witten.
From a strictly football-centric perspective, Witten is a coach’s dream: gifted, hardworking and as competitive a player as you’ll find in not only football, but all of professional sports.
In 2007, Witten caught a pass over the middle against Philadelphia and took it 53 yards, all the way to the Eagles five-yard line. Twenty-five to 30 of those yards came after the tight end was sandwiched between two Eagles defenders, his helmet popping off and falling to the turf at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I’ve always liked him, but now I like him more," John Madden gushed.
This is a telling sentiment, increasingly applicable to Witten both on and off the field.
Witten’s off-season activities, other than preparing for another potential Pro Bowl campaign, include extensive charity work with several groups. His SCORE Foundation provides, among other things, assistance for victims of domestic abuse. SCORE is funded entirely by Witten himself and contributions from individual donors.
In March, Witten cut the ribbon on a learning center at an East Dallas Boys And Girls Club, donating $50,000 to establish the Jason Witten Media Center, which includes a computer room, a game room and, most importantly, a place for at-risk kids to go after school.
The Pro Bowler was a member of his own Boys And Girls Club as a kid in Elizabethton, Tenn.
"Jason’s the real deal and more," said Emily Robbins, the Cowboys’ director of community relations.
In mid-May, Witten held his annual charity bowling tournament, raising around $230,000 for SCORE, along with teammates Tony Romo, Isaiah Stanback and others.
Last week, Witten donned an apron, got a crash course in sushi-making and served the public at an event at RA Sushi Bar and Grill on Plano to raise money for the Behm Family Trust, benefiting the Cowboys’ scout who was paralyzed when the team’s practice facility collapsed.
On June 27, Witten will return to Elizabethton to host his seventh annual football camp; the town is already home to the Jason Witten Literacy Center.
So why do we love Jason Witten?
There are simply too many reasons to count.