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Jason Witten
refer to caption
Witten in 2015 with the Dallas Cowboys
No. 82 – Dallas Cowboys
Position: Tight end
Personal information
Born: (1982-05-06) May 6, 1982 (age 35)
Elizabethton, Tennessee
Height: 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Weight: 263 lb (119 kg)
Career information
High school: Elizabethton (TN)
College: Tennessee
NFL Draft: 2003 / Round: 3 / Pick: 69
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 2017
Receptions: 1,152
Receiving yards: 12,448
Receiving touchdowns: 68
Player stats at NFL.com
Player stats at PFR

Christopher Jason Witten (born May 6, 1982[1]) is an American football tight end for the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the University of Tennessee, and was drafted by the Cowboys in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft. Witten ranks second in all-time career receptions and receiving yards by an NFL tight end, trailing only Tony Gonzalez.

Early years[edit]

Witten is the youngest of three brothers, Ryan and Shawn, and was raised in Washington D.C., but attended Elizabethton High School in Elizabethton, Tennessee.[2] Witten's father, a 6'8", 300 lb. mailman, was abusive toward his mother, Kim, and his older brothers after he became addicted to alcohol and drugs when Jason was 6.[3] When he was 11, Witten moved to Elizabethton to live with his grandparents.[4] His grandfather Dave Rider was also the coach of the football team, where he was a two-way player, playing linebacker and tight end.[5]

Witten became a three-year starter playing both linebacker and tight end, while helping his team reach the state semifinals three times. As a senior linebacker, he finished the season with 163 tackles (registering a career school record 450), nine sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and two blocked kicks. That year, he received several accolades: All-American, All-State (also as a junior), USA Today Player of the Year for Tennessee, East Tennessee Player of the Year, Region Defensive Player of the Year and runner-up for the Mr. Football award. He had 26 receptions and 14 touchdowns on offense. He also played basketball, where he averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds per-game.

College career[edit]

Witten accepted a scholarship to the University of Tennessee, with the promise from then head coach Phillip Fulmer that he would be played at defensive end. He began his freshman year playing special teams and saw time as a second-string defensive end.

After injuries impacted the depth at the tight end position, he was moved to the offensive side midway through the season. Although Witten did not agree with the change and even considering transferring, he eventually came around and was used primarily as a blocker while he learned the position. He also started in his first 2 games.[6] As a freshman, he recorded one reception on the season, which went for 11 yards in a 70–3 victory over Louisiana–Monroe.[7]

He started three games as a sophomore, registering 28 receptions for 293 yards and two touchdowns.[8] He scored his first collegiate touchdown in a 35–24 victory over Alabama.[9] As a junior, he had a breakout year, setting school records for a tight end in receptions (39) and receiving yards (493) with five touchdowns, including one of the most memorable receptions in school history, a game-winning touchdown in the sixth overtime against the University of Arkansas.[10][11] He received All-SEC (SEC) and Academic All-SEC honors after leading the conference's tight ends in receptions and receiving yards.[12]

Even though he decided to enter the NFL Draft after his junior season and had played the position in only 20 games, he left ranked third all-time among the school's tight ends with 68 career receptions and fourth all-time with 797 receiving yards.[13]

Professional career[edit]

2003 season[edit]

Witten was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round (69th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft.[14] Although the Cowboys had a first round grade on him, when their turn came in the first and second rounds, they selected cornerback Terrence Newman and Al Johnson based on team needs. Undrafted free agent Tony Romo was another rookie who also arrived in Dallas in 2003 and would go on to become Witten's teammate throughout their careers, as well as his roommate during future team training camps and travel games.

Entering the league as a 20-year-old rookie, Witten started only seven of the fifteen games he played in. On September 7, he made his NFL debut in a 27–13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, where he had a single reception for 13 yards.[15] Overall, he registered 35 receptions for 347 receiving yards and one touchdown.[16] He broke his jaw against the Arizona Cardinals, after being hit by Ronald McKinnon and Ray Thompson, which required surgery to have three plates inserted to help the healing. He only missed one game (the lone game he has missed during his NFL career) and continued to play through the injury. Then-head coach Bill Parcells complimented Witten on his toughness. Witten was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team for the 2003 season.[17]

2004 season[edit]

In 2004, Witten had a breakout season leading the NFC with 87 catches, which was also the 11th most in NFL history by a tight end and a Cowboys team record for the position.[18][19] On November 15, against the Philadelphia Eagles, he had nine receptions for 133 yards and two touchdowns.[20] He was selected to his first Pro Bowl, becoming a part of the Cowboys franchise's legacy of great tight ends that includes Jim Doran, Lee Folkins, Pettis Norman, Mike Ditka, Billy Joe DuPree, Franklin Clarke, Doug Cosbie and Jay Novacek.[21]

2005 season[edit]

Witten finished sixth in the NFL among tight ends with 66 receptions and became the first Cowboys tight end to have at least 65 receptions in consecutive seasons.[22] He had 757 receiving yards and six touchdown receptions in 2005.[23] As a result of his successful season, he was named to his second Pro Bowl.[24]

2006 season[edit]

At the end of the 2006 NFL season, Witten became just the tenth tight end in NFL history to post three consecutive seasons with at least 60 receptions.[25] He registered 64 receptions for 754 yards (11.8 yard avg.) and one touchdown, while being named to his third Pro Bowl.[26]

On July 22, Witten signed a six-year, $29 million contract extension through 2012. The deal contained $12 million guaranteed, including a $6 million signing bonus and a $6 million option bonus in the second year.[27]

2007 season[edit]

Witten had a career year during the 2007 NFL season, breaking his own single-season Cowboys tight end record for receptions with 96 and becoming the first franchise tight end to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season.[28] He became the third tight end in NFL history with 96 or more catches. On December 9 against the Detroit Lions, Witten's 15 receptions tied an NFL record held by Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow Sr., for most receptions in a game by a tight end in NFL history.[29] In the 14th game of the year, Witten became the first Dallas tight end ever to gain over 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Witten was also one of the NFL-record 13 Cowboys players selected to the Pro Bowl.[30][31] Additionally, he made the 2007 All-Pro team along with teammates Terrell Owens and DeMarcus Ware. In the Week 9 game on November 4, while playing at Philadelphia, he made a 53-yard reception after losing his helmet.[32][33] He was named as a First Team All-Pro for the 2007 season.[34]

Witten was nominated for the 2007 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which was won by Jason Taylor.[35]

2008 season[edit]

Witten made his 400th career reception in the Cowboys' Thanksgiving Day game against the Seattle Seahawks on November 27, 2008. On December 28, against the Philadelphia Eagles, he completed a 42-yard pass for the first and only pass of his professional career.[36] He posted 81 receptions, which ranked 13th in the NFL for 2008, 952 yards, 4 touchdowns, and was named a starter for the 2008 Pro Bowl.[37][38][39]

2009 season[edit]

Jason Witten during the 2009 season.

In the 2009 season, Witten had another Pro Bowl season, making 94 receptions for 1,030 yards and two touchdowns.[40][41] He was also given the NFL Iron Man Award.[42]

Witten (left) during an interview with ESPN.

2010 season[edit]

Witten banged his head on the turf after making a catch in a Week 2 loss against the Chicago Bears. He was forced to miss the rest of the game with a concussion. Before the injury, he had five receptions for 51 yards in the game.[43]

In a Week 15 game against the Washington Redskins, Witten became the fastest tight end to make 600 receptions (125 games). He accomplished this with a 10-catch, 140-yard, one-touchdown day at home.[44] He received his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl selection when he was named as the starting tight end for the NFC.[45]

At the conclusion of the 2010 season, Witten was named tight end of the Year by the NFL Alumni Association.[46]

Overall, Witten hauled in 94 receptions for 1,002 yards and nine touchdowns for the 2010 season.[47] He was named as a First Team All-Pro for the second time in his career.[48] He was ranked #36 by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2011.[49]

2011 season[edit]

Witten finished the season with 79 receptions for 942 receiving yards and five touchdowns playing in all 16 games.[50] On November 13, 2011, Witten surpassed Ozzie Newsome to become the tight end with the third most receptions in NFL history with 663.[51] He was ranked #75 by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2012.[52]

2012 season[edit]

On August 13, 2012, Witten suffered a lacerated spleen in the preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders, missed the rest of the preseason and there was talk that the seriousness of the injury could keep him out of action for a considerable time.[53]

On September 5, Witten battled back and was able to play in the season opener, catching two passes for 10 yards in a victory over the New York Giants.[54] Witten's availability for the game was in question due to the spleen injury he suffered during the preseason, but he was active for the game after being medically cleared to play.[55]

On September 16, against the Seattle Seahawks, Witten caught four passes for 58 yards.[56] He finished the game with 702 career receptions to become just the second player in franchise history to reach 700+ catches (Michael Irvin has 750) and the third tight end in NFL history to do so (Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe are the other two). Witten became the fastest tight end to reach 700 catches, reaching the milestone in 145 games, Gonzalez took 154 games and Sharpe took 178 games. Witten also became the youngest wide receiver/tight end to reach 700+ catches with 30 years, 133 days. This record was later broken in Week 3 by Cardinals' wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald who totaled 707 career catches with 29 years, 23 days. His 58-yard performance gave him 7,977 receiving yards for his career passing former Cowboy Jackie Smith for fourth all-time in receiving yards among tight ends.

After week 3, Witten passed Ozzie Newsome for third place all-time in receiving yards among tight ends. In week 8, Witten caught a career-high 18 passes for a career-high 167 yards. This is also a record for receptions by a tight end; the previous record of 15 receptions was set by Kellen Winslow Sr. in 1984.[57][58]

On November 4, against the Atlanta Falcons, Witten set the Cowboys' all-time receptions record of 754, surpassing Michael Irvin's previous record of 750.[59]

On December 23, against the New Orleans Saints, Witten set the NFL single-season record for receptions by a tight end (103), breaking the previous record of 102 receptions, which had been set by Tony Gonzalez in 2004.[60] He extended the record to 110 in the season finale.

On December 26, he was selected to his eighth Pro Bowl.[61] For the second time in his career, Witten was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, this time winning the award and the $25,000 donation to his charity.[62] Overall, he finished the 2012 season with 110 receptions for 1,039 yards and three touchdowns.[63] He was ranked #41 among his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2013.[64]

2013 season[edit]

On September 15, Witten surpassed Shannon Sharpe with the second most receptions as a tight end in NFL history. His three catches during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs brought his career total to 817.[65] In the last game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles he had 12 receptions for 135 yards.[66] He finished with 73 receptions for 851 yards and eight touchdowns.[67] He was named to the Pro Bowl for the ninth time in his career.[68] He was ranked 98th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2014.[69]

2014 season[edit]

Witten in 2015 Pro Bowl.

In a Week 5 game against the Houston Texans on October 5, Witten became only the third tight end with 10,000 career receiving yards, joining Shannon Sharpe and Tony Gonzalez.[70]

Witten became the all-time leader for consecutive starts by a tight end after he started against the Seattle Seahawks on October 12.[71][72] In that same game, he also became the second tight end in NFL history to reach 900 receptions.

Witten against the Giants had 27 yards to move his career receiving yards to 10,065 to pass Shannon Sharpe (10,060) for the second-most receiving yards by an NFL tight end.

On December 21, he sprained his knee against the Indianapolis Colts, but was still able to play in the last game against the Washington Redskins.

That season, the Cowboys emphasized the running game and although his receiving production declined, his blocking was noticed while helping Demarco Murray lead the NFL in rushing.[73][74] He finished with 60 receptions for 654 yards and five touchdowns.[75] He was named to his tenth career Pro Bowl for his 2014 season.[76] He was ranked 93rd by his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2015.[77]

2015 season[edit]

On September 20, in the first game against the Philadelphia Eagles, he suffered a right knee and two sprained ankles, but was able to only miss a play and a half.

On November 22, against the Miami Dolphins he became the franchise's iron man, playing his 196th consecutive game and surpassing Bob Lilly. On December 27, against the Buffalo Bills, he set the Cowboys record with his 118th consecutive game with a reception, passing Michael Irvin.

On December 7, in a Monday Night Football game against the Washington Redskins, he became the 12th player and second tight end in NFL history to reach 1,000 receptions. The only other tight end with 1,000 or more catches is Tony Gonzalez.[78]

During the 2015 season, he was asked to be more involved in the blocking than usual, because of the team playing with four different starting quarterbacks with varying degrees of knowledge of the offense. He led the Cowboys with 77 receptions for 713 yards and three touchdowns.[79]

2016 season[edit]

Against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8, Witten caught the game-winning touchdown in overtime, making him the first player in franchise history to score in 14 seasons.[80] He finished the season 16 receiving yards shy of Michael Irvin's all-time franchise record. Overall, he finished the 2016 regular season with 69 receptions for 673 receiving yards and three touchdowns.[81] He scored his first career postseason touchdown in the Cowboys' 34–31 Divisional Round loss to the Green Bay Packers.[82]

2017 season[edit]

Witten in October 2017

On March 28, 2017, Witten signed a four-year contract extension with the Cowboys through the 2021 season.[83]

On September 10, 2017, in a 19–3 win against the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football, Witten recorded the Cowboys' lone touchdown.[84] In addition, he passed Michael Irvin for most career receiving yards in franchise history. He became the third player in NFL history to have at least 150 catches against one team, joining Jerry Rice and Larry Fitzgerald. On September 17, 2017, in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos, Witten had ten receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown in the 42–17 defeat.[85] He finished the season with 63 receptions for 560 yards and five touchdowns, on his way to his 11th Pro Bowl, which tied a Cowboys record with Bob Lilly.[86][87][88]

Career statistics[edit]

NFL career statistics
Season Receiving Fumbles
Year Team GP GS Tgt Rec Yards Avg Long TD Fum Lost
2003 DAL 15 7 54 35 347 9.9 36 1 0 0
2004 DAL 16 15 122 87 980 11.3 42 6 2 2
2005 DAL 16 16 89 66 757 11.5 34 6 0 0
2006 DAL 16 15 90 64 754 11.8 42 1 0 0
2007 DAL 16 16 141 96 1,145 11.9 53 7 1 1
2008 DAL 16 16 121 81 952 11.8 42 4 0 0
2009 DAL 16 16 124 94 1,030 11.0 69 2 0 0
2010 DAL 16 16 128 94 1,002 10.7 33 9 1 1
2011 DAL 16 16 117 79 942 11.9 64 5 1 1
2012 DAL 16 16 147 110 1,039 9.4 36 3 0 0
2013 DAL 16 16 111 73 851 11.7 34 8 0 0
2014 DAL 16 16 90 64 703 11.0 34 5 0 0
2015 DAL 16 16 104 77 713 9.3 35 3 1 1
2016 DAL 16 16 95 69 673 9.8 35 3 1 1
2017 DAL 16 16 87 63 560 8.9 28 5 1 1
Career 239 229 1,620 1,152 12,488 10.8 69 68 8 8

NFL records and achievements[edit]

Cowboys franchise records[edit]

  • Most career receptions: 1,152[90]
  • Most career receiving yards: 12,448
  • Most receptions in a single game: 18 (Oct. 28, 2012)
  • Most consecutive games played: 239 (as of Jan. 3, 2017)
  • Most (consecutive) seasons with a reception, touchdown, scoring: 15 (2003-2017)

Personal life[edit]

Witten resides in Westlake, Texas, located in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex, with his wife, Michelle, an emergency room nurse at Dallas' Parkland Memorial Hospital,[91] and their four children, C.J., Cooper, Landry, and Hadley Grace.[92] Witten is a Christian, and appears in a video on I Am Second in which he talks about his faith.[93]

References[edit]

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