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Local NFL players continue to thrive

Jeff Birchfield • Dec 7, 2017 at 2:37 PM

Jason Witten continues to set a high standard on and off the field with the new Collegiate Football Man of the Year Award named after him.

The winner of the award will receive a $10,000 contribution from Witten’s SCORE Foundation, the official charity of the Dallas Cowboys tight end and his wife, Michelle. The SCORE Foundation has worked with different children’s charities in Tennessee and Texas — and opened the Jason and Michelle Witten Emergency Waiting Room at Niswonger’s Children’s Hospital in Johnson City.

Witten, a former Elizabethton High School and University of Tennessee standout, won the 2012 NFL Man of the Year Award named after former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.

On the field, Witten has 51 receptions for 437 yards through 12 games this season. It’s the 14th straight season which Witten has made at least 50 catches. Few catches were more spectacular than the one-handed touchdown grab the 35-year-old made in a 40-10 victory over San Francisco on Oct. 22

Witten is now fourth all-time in the NFL with 1,140 receptions, second all-time among tight ends behind Tony Gonzalez. Darren Woodson, who played 12 seasons in the NFL and currently serves as an ESPN analyst, called Witten the greatest tight end ever and pointed to his all-around play.

“You can not tell me there’s a better tight end to ever play the game,” Woodson said. “I look at Tony Gonzalez. He wouldn’t block a soul. Great, dynamic in the passing game, runs great routes, but won’t block a soul. Antonio Gates, he won’t touch a soul.

“This guy (Witten), not only he is a great pass catcher, but he’ll do everything. He lines up on the edge. He’ll reach block you. He’ll cut you off. He’ll motion in the backfield. He’ll lead-draw you as a fullback. He does everything. He’s a complete tight end.”

Witten still plays on special teams, specifically as a blocker on field goals and extra-points.

Former Dallas QB Tony Romo has called him the greatest Cowboys player ever. Witten certainly holds his share of franchise records.

The 10-time NFL Pro Bowl player has played in the most games (235), the most consecutive games (231), got the most career receptions (1,140), most receiving yards (12,325) and the most receiving touchdowns (67) after making an eight-yard catch in last Thursday’s win over the Redskins.

Coty Sensabaugh

Signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the former Dobyns-Bennett High School star has played in all 12 games and started the last three at cornerback.

Sensabaugh had a team-high six solo tackles (seven overall) in Pittsburgh’s 23-20 win over Cincinnati on Monday night. However, he was benched in the second half for rookie Cam Sutton after being on the wrong end of a pair of touchdown passes from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green. Back on Nov. 16, Sensabaugh had an interception and 32-yard return against the Tennessee Titans. The Steelers are the hottest team in the AFC right now, riding a seven-game winning streak after their latest comeback.

For his career, Sensabaugh has two fumble recoveries, three interceptions and 159 tackles.

Daniel Kilgore

Another former Dobyns-Bennett standout, Kilgore has been the starting center for the San Francisco 49ers all 12 games season.

Kilgore has played in 69 career games and has been a starter at either left guard or center for the 49ers since 2014. However, he has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, missing the last three games of last season with a hamstring injury.

He’s missed 25 games with different leg injuries over the past three seasons, but when healthy is considered one of the team’s best players. He’s ranked 13th on the team’s website before the season.

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