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Jason Witten’s Career Through His Brother’s Eyes

The countdown continues for the official start of the NFL regular season for Dallas Cowboys fans, and of course the 31 other teams. In the short lull before training camp begins, many reflect back on past seasons and think about what 2021 will bring. Despite him not wearing the star on his helmet last season, it still feels a bit strange to not have long-time tight end Jason Witten getting ready to play for the Cowboys in the fall.

Witten is expected to eventually sign a one day deal with the Cowboys this offseason to officially retire with the Cowboys.

Early Childhood for the Witten Brothers

The Witten brothers have never keep their early struggles a secret having witnessed drug, alcohol and domestic abuse as children. It’s no secret that Jason, Shawn and Ryan Witten encountered a lot of adversity early on in their lives.

Shawn Witten, the middle brother, says their childhood had a lot of negative influence. But if there was one person that helped them overcome it all, it was their grandfather, Dave Rider. “He became that instant person that we needed,” says Shawn. Not only did Dave become that person for the Witten brothers, but for the community around him as well.

The boys grew up around Dave being a positive influence to not only them, but the many kids he coached in the Elizabethton community. Shawn describing his grandfather as a father-figure that always saw the glass half-full in life. Dave taught the boys valuable life lessons teaching them how to grow from “young boys to young men.”

“Early on he gave us a platform to dream, and dream big,” said Shawn as he reflected on their many conversations during car rides and at the dinner table.

Football is Family

One conversation that came up often, the game of football. Shawn described football as becoming a natural part of their day-to-day lives and conversations from an early age. This as Dave was a high school football coach for a total of 45 years and it runs in the family.

Naturally the Dallas Cowboys frequently came up in conversation, as they were a family of die hard Cowboys fans. “Football is all we know,” said Shawn.

Dave even made sure to take the brothers to NFL games as they grew up. One memory that sticks out to Shawn was snapping a picture with, the legendary, former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Tom Laundry at a game. This picture even being a staple for the family that was framed and put on the wall of their home.

“My grandfather is an old school type coach,” said Shawn. Describing his coaching-style as being similar to that of Tom Laundry, Vince Lombardi, Joe Gibbs, and even Bill Parcells who was, ironically, the head coach of the Cowboys when Jason Witten’s career in the NFL began.

Stars Align for the Start of an Era in Dallas for Jason Witten’s Career

Shawn remembers Jason being picked in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft, which was later than initially expected. But saying that “the right organization with the right coach” made Jason’s career what it ended up being because of that series of events.

“Going to play for the Cowboys with Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells set his career off,” said Shawn.

The stars would align for Jason to make a name for himself not only within the Cowboys organization, but across the NFL as well. Witten even becoming, arguably, one of the best tight ends in NFL history. Jason Witten played for 17 total seasons in the NFL, with 16 of them being with the Dallas Cowboys and one being with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Jason Witten made 11 Pro Bowl appearances and is the Cowboys all-time leader in receptions and yards. He played a total of 271 games, and only missing one game within his football career. That game being his rookie season due to a broken jaw.

Not only was Jason’s career impressive on the field, but off of it as well. He was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012 and awarded the Bob Lilly Award 6 times. He started the Jason Witten SCORE Foundation, which aims at breaking the cycle of violence and domestic abuse. Shawn said one of his favorite moments during Jason’s career was watching all he accomplished off the field. To Shawn, watching his brother become the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012 was an extremely proud moment.

And if you’re wondering what his favorite on the field moment was from Jason’s career it’s, of course, the iconic play of Jason going down the field with his helmet off. Paving the way for the “Jason Witten helmet rule” in the NFL.

Career Continues For Jason Witten in Las Vegas

Witten’s last NFL season with played with the Raiders and kicking off their inaugural season in Las Vegas in 2020. “I think it was a great experience for him and he wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” says Shawn about Jason’s 2020 season with the Raiders.

Shawn said it was not only great to see his brother lay a foundation out for the new team. But, that Jason gained a different perspective from what he was use to with the Cowboys as well.

“I think from top to bottom he got to experience anything and everything other than the opportunity to play for a Super Bowl,” says Shawn.

Tony Romo and Jason Witten | The Dynamic Duo

Also, something Cowboys fans wished would have been the case for Jason and his former QB1 Tony Romo. “At the end of the day they really just wanted to win a Super Bowl for the Jones family and for the Cowboys,” said Shawn.

Shawn described Tony as Jason’s best friend that he relied on during their tenure together. Even saying that they worked hard for each other out on the field.

Looking back on the classic story how the QB and TE met on the airport shuttle in 2003, never thinking they would become as close as they did. “It’s great to have someone you can enjoy and do it with,” said Shawn as he reminisced on the memories Jason and Tony made during their time with the Cowboys.

Ultimately, the dynamics duo just wanted to pave the way to leave a legacy in Dallas.

Leaving A Legacy in Dallas

One thing is certain, although Jason Witten didn’t win a Super Bowl during his career, he has a left a legacy for generations to come within the Dallas Cowboys organization. From wearing the star on his helmet, to playing at Texas and AT&T Stadium, and being part of the Jones family is only part of what Shawn says Jason described as being an honor. “In the back of his mind he always played for Jerry Jones. I think he never wanted to let the Jones family down,” Shawn attributed to growing up around Dave being a coach.

It’s safe to assume that Jason will be inducted to the Ring of Honor at some point. Not only that but, he can be eligible for a forever spot in Canton, OH in the Pro NFL Hall of Fame in just five years.

“Jason’s always been the ultimate professional on the field and off the field with his teammates, coaches, work ethic, involvement in his community, adapting to being a father to his four kids, and just building that legacy,” says Shawn.

Shawn mentioning throughout Jason Witten’s career everyone knew, he was dependable. They knew that no matter what, he was always going to give it his all during practice or game time. Jason was always going to put everything on the line no matter if his team was in playoff contention not.

Reflecting back on the first time Jason retired from the NFL in 2018, Shawn said it was extremely emotional. But that the family has peace with the decision as Jason called it a career how he wanted to.

Jason Witten’s Coaching Career

It was announced earlier this year that Jason would be hanging up the helmet again, but this time for good. And instead of heading back to the broadcast booth, he would be coaching at Liberty Christian School.

“I think this is a time for interject and to make an impact on his kids. I think it’s time to stop for a minute and invest in the people that have invested in you,” said Shawn. Jason comes from a line of coaching from his grandfather, uncle, and even Shawn and Ryan. Shawn adding that this as an opportunity for Jason to spend more time with his family while giving back to the community he loves. He has no doubt that his brother will be the best role model for those high school athletes going forward.

Shawn made it clear that Jason is done playing football. But don’t count out seeing him return to the Cowboys in some capacity in the future. We could very well see him return in some capacity at some point in the future.

“I think ultimately he probably wants to be a college coach or a coach in the pros or maybe do something for the Cowboys. But I think there’s a time where, right now, that he gets to coach his boys,” said Shawn.

Shawn mentioned that Jason really enjoys the Dallas community, and sees him staying there for the long-term.

Basically, Shawn just wants what any older brother wants, Jason’s happiness. Shawn says no matter what path Jason takes in the future, he just wants him to be happy. After 17 NFL seasons, Shawn says Jason deserves to sit back and enjoy life to the full extent with his family.

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