NEW ORLEANS — Jason Witten is about to receive a major honor.
Athletes in Action announced Tuesday that Witten, a Dallas Cowboys and former University of Tennessee tight end, will be honored with the Bart Starr Award, which recognizes one NFL player for outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community.
Witten, an Elizabethton High School graduate, will receive the honor during the 26th Annual NFL-Sanctioned Super Bowl Breakfast on Feb. 1 at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans.
Other finalists for the award were Matt Hasselbeck, quarterback for the Tennessee Titans, and Justin Tuck, defensive end for the New York Giants.
The winner of the Bart Starr Award is voted on by NFL players and is named after NFL Hall of Famer Bart Starr. The award honors the player who best exemplifies Starr’s commitment to family, teammates and the community. Past winners include London Fletcher, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie White and Mike Singletary.
In his 10th season in the NFL, Witten has been active in numerous charitable projects. He founded Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation, which supports a variety of outreach programs and building projects in Texas and his native Tennessee. Specifically, the Jason Witten SCOREkeepers program places trained male mentors in battered women’s shelters throughout Texas. In an effort to break the cycle of domestic violence, the mentors demonstrate positive male behavior for the children living in these shelters. Witten has also been involved in the Children’s Cancer Fund Fashion Show, NFL Play 60, Boys and Girls Club of America and the Make-a-Wish Foundation, among many other projects.
Witten also broke many NFL and Cowboy records in 2012. He was also elected to his eighth Pro Bowl after missing out last season. All might not have happened after suffering a lacerated spleen during the first game of the preseason.
Witten rebounded nicely and finished the year playing and starting in all 16 games on the year, making a NFL record for a tight end 110 catches for 1,039 yards and three touchdowns. It was the fourth time in his career that he broke the 1,000-yard barrier.
Jason Witten also hit the 800 career catch mark in the final game of the regular season, just the third tight end and 26th player in the history of the NFL to do so, and the fastest. Witten accomplished the feat in just 159 games. With 806 career catches, he is just 10 away from passing Shannon Sharpe (815, 1990-2003) for second place on the All-Time NFL receptions by tight ends list.
He also set a new Cowboys’ record for career catches passing Michael Irvin (750) earlier in the season.
Witten also became the second Tennessee product with 100 catches in a season joining Carl Pickens, who had 100 catches in 1996 with the Cincinnati Bengals. Witten now holds the record for most catches by a former Vol in a season with 103.
In a tough loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 28, Witten broke his own Cowboys receiving record and set a league record for tight ends with 18 catches for 167 yards. Only Brandon Marshall, Terrell Owens and Tom Fears have ever caught as many or more passes at any position.
Priority and corporate tables are still available and may be purchased by calling (800) 416-9472. Additional information can also be found at www.superbowlbreakfast.com.