Former Volunteer, Cowboys Legend Jason Witten Retires

Dallas Cowboys legend and former University of Tennessee star tight end Jason Witten announced his retirement from professional football on Thursday in a press conference at the Cowboys’ headquarters.

Witten will still be visible in retirement as he will enter broadcasting and has accepted a position to join ESPN’s Monday Night Football as an analyst.

Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer coached Witten at UT and famously had the Elizabethton, Tenn., native switch to tight end during his freshman season after beginning his career as a defensive end.

“Jason Witten is the epitome of a team player,” Fulmer said. “He is a guy that could do it all at the tight end position as a receiver or blocker. He was a great leader both on the field and in the locker room, and he was the rock in the Cowboys organization. He is also a wonderful man, husband and father. He represents the award that bears his name very well, the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award.”

Witten had a standout three-year career (2000-02) playing tight end at Tennessee, earning All-America honors from The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated in 2002. Witten also earned consensus first-team All-SEC recognition in 2002 after establishing a then single-season school-record for catches (39) and receiving yards (493) by a tight end. Witten still ranks fifth all-time at UT in career receptions (68) and receiving yards (797) by a tight end and helped lead the Vols to an appearance in the 2001 SEC Championship game as well as a 45-17 victory over Michigan in the Florida Citrus Bowl to cap off the season. One of the top highlights of his collegiate career was catching the game-winning 25-yard touchdown in the Vols’ 41-38 six-overtime victory over Arkansas in 2002.

Following his tenure with the Vols, Witten was selected in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Witten went on to have one of the most dominant pro careers by a tight end in NFL history, totaling 1,152 catches for 12,448 yards and 68 touchdowns in 15 seasons, all with the Cowboys. The future Hall of Famer finished his career ranked fourth in NFL history in receptions and holds records for most catches in a single season by a tight end (110 in 2012) and most catches in a game by a tight end (18 in 2012). Witten’s 68 receiving touchdowns rank third in franchise history and fifth all-time among NFL tight ends.

Witten was an 11-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012. The Dallas pass catcher holds numerous franchise receiving records including most career receptions, most career receiving yards and most consecutive seasons with a reception, among others.

Through his own charitable foundation, Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation, Witten has launched numerous outreach programs and funded several new building projects in Texas and his native Tennessee.

“Jason Witten was the ultimate pro,” fellow VFL and NFL legend Peyton Manning said Thursday. “He obviously played a very long time, but he did it the right way. He played as hard as he could on the field and was an incredible representative of Dallas and that community. He also proudly represented his hometown of Elizabethton, giving back to his community off the field.

“But the thing I keep going back to is the fact that he was a true pro. He put the time and effort in during the off-season taking care of his body, staying sharp mentally and tutoring his younger teammates through the years. I just have great respect for him.

“I’m proud to be his friend and proud to be a fellow Tennessee Vol alongside him. I know he’ll be successful in his second chapter, just like he was in his first chapter, and I wish him all the best.”

The Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award was established in 2017 in his honor to reward the Division I college football player who has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field. UCF’s Shaquem Griffin was named the inaugural winner of the award in February.

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