Jason Witten’s offseason of recognition continues.
The veteran Cowboys tight end was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year on Saturday. The award recognizes community service and playing excellence.
The announcement was made during the NFL Honors presentation, which will air on CBS at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Also this week, Witten was presented the Bart Starr Award for outstanding character and leadership in the community, at home and on the field. Last weekend, he made his eighth Pro Bowl game appearance.
“I am extremely flattered to be chosen the 2012 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year from such an esteemed group of nominees,” Witten said in a statement released by the Cowboys. “I work hard every day not only to be a success on the football field and a credit to my team – but to be a good husband, father, son, grandson, teammate, to be the kind of man that is as respected as Walter Payton was.
“Like others before me, I have a great opportunity as an NFL player to make a difference in the lives of others. It is honestly humbling to be recognized in such a manner for simply doing what I feel is right and human. I am fortunate to have a great support system in my family, the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL which allows me to make an impact in the communities and with people who love our game.”
Jarrett and Brittney Payton, the son and daughter of the late Payton, will recognize Witten’s award on the field before the kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII.
Witten, who finished his 10th season last year with the Cowboys, set an NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end last year. Off the field, he has served as the Cowboys’ spokesman for NFL Play 60 and has his own charity, Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation, which has started many programs and funded building projects in Texas and his native Tennesee.
The Witten SCORE Foundation’s SCOREkeepers program has placed full-time, trained male mentors in six battered women’s shelters throughout Texas in an attempt to stop a cycle of family violence. The foundation’s latest domestic violence prevention program, “Coaching Boys Into Men,” trains high school coaches to educate their players on the dangers of dating violence.
The Wittens also involve their children in serving a Thanksgiving meal to the clients at the Salvation Army in Dallas, underwrite the Dallas Cowboys Women’s Association’s Christmas of Giving, and Witten’s free football camp in Tennessee draws some 1,200 campers each year.
Recent winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award include Matt Birk of the Baltimore Ravens, Madieu Williams of the Minnesota Vikings (2010) and Brian Waters of the Kansas City Chiefs (2009). Seventeen Hall of Fame players have won the award.
All 32 team nominees received a $1,000 donation from NFL Foundation to the charity of their choice. The three Man of the Year finalists received an additional $5,000 donation in their name. As the winner, Witten receives an additional $20,000 donation.
The selection panel was comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, 2011 winner Matt Birk and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.
-- Carlos Mendez