Jason Witten was a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2007. He might be due this year.
Witten is a finalist for the annual award, given for a player's community service as well as his excellence on the field, along with Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Browns tackle Joe Thomas. The winner will be announced Saturday night.
"I feel this is one of those awards that everybody is a winner," Witten said Friday. "Just to be mentioned is awesome, because there are so many great players who not only do it the right way on the field, but they do it the right way off the field. Just to be mentioned is definitely humbling."
The Cowboys have had two winners in the 43-year history of the award: Roger Staubach won it in 1978 and Troy Aikman in 1997.
"Walter Payton epitomizes what the NFL shield is all about,’’ Witten said. “How he handled himself, Sweetness on the field, but being a better man off the field. It’s humbling to be mentioned with his name."
Witten was honored Friday morning with the Bart Starr Award from Athletes in Action in recognition of his commitment to family, teammates and community. He twice received standing ovations.
“You talk about courage and leadership, that’s a name that comes to the top," Witten said of the Packers' Hall of Fame quarterback. "That was a huge honor for me. Those are the type of things you want to stand for -- leadership and courage and giving back in your community."
Witten is involved in a number of charities, but his passion is The Jason Witten SCORE Foundation. SCORE, which stands for Support, Community, Overcome, Rebuild, Educate, supports families affected by domestic violence.
He has funded several building projects in Texas and his native Tennessee, and the SCOREkeepers program is a unique initiative placing full-time, trained male mentors in battered women’s shelters throughout Texas. The mentors demonstrate positive male behavior to the children in these shelters in an effort to break the cycle of violence that plagues families affected by abuse. JWSF has placed SCOREkeepers in six shelters across Texas, and Witten hosts children from these shelters for special events throughout the year. The foundation’s newest domestic violence prevention program, “Coaching Boys Into Men,” trains high school coaches to educate their players on the dangers of dating violence.
Witten set two NFL records this season for most catches by a tight end in a game (18) and most catches by a tight end in a season (110).
-- Charean Williams