Jason Witten, one of the NFL’s greatest tight ends to ever play the game announced his retirement yesterday. A surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, Witten reached some amazing milestones both on and off the field during his football career with the Dallas Cowboys and the University of Tennessee. Here are the 10 greatest.
Best High School Player in Tennessee (1999)
To escape an abusive father, Witten moved from Washington, D.C., to Elizabethton, Tennessee, to live with his grandparents. There, he was a standout defensive end and tight end, helping Elizabethton High School reach the state semifinals three years in a row. During his senior year in 1999, he was an All-American and winner of the Charles Greenhill Award for the best player in the state of Tennessee.
First College Touchdown (2001)
Tennessee originally planned to play Witten on defense, but moved him to tight end midway through his freshman year. He caught his first touchdown pass his sophomore season against Alabama to pull the Volunteers ahead 21-17 in a 35-24 win.
Beating Arkansas in Six Overtimes (2002)
Witten had a great junior season, earning All-SEC honors. But his most memorable play as a Vol came in a 41-38 win over Arkansas, when he caught a 25-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the sixth overtime to seal the game.
First Pro Bowl (2004)
Witten entered the draft after his junior year and was taken by the Cowboys in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft. During his second season, Witten caught 87 passes – the most ever by a Dallas tight end at the time – and made the first of his 11 Pro Bowls.
15 Catches in One Game (2007)
Having already established himself as one of the premier tight ends in the league, Witten had 96 receptions in 2007. Fifteen of those catches came against the Detroit Lions on Dec. 9 and tied Kellen Winslow’s record for most receptions by a tight end in a single game. Witten would break that record a few years later.
Most Receptions by a Tight End (2012)
Witten overcame injuries to catch 110 passes in 2012, the most ever by a tight end in one season. Along the way, he posted 18 catches against the New York Giants, the most by a tight in a single game.
Walter Payton Man of the Year (2012)
Witten has participated in numerous charities and has worked to prevent domestic violence through his own SCORE Foundation. In 2012, he was honored for those efforts with the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
Dallas’ Iron Man (2015)
Witten played in 243 consecutive games, often times overcoming injuries to stay on the field. He became Dallas’ all-time leader in that department in 2015, when he surpassed Bob Lilly’s record of 195 consecutive games.
1,000 Receptions (2015)
On Dec, 7, 2015, Witten recorded his 1,000th catch against the Washington Redskins, becoming only the second tight end to accomplish that feat. He is retiring as Dallas’ all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards.
Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award (2017)
Witten has been a role model throughout his entire career so he was the perfect namesake for a college football man of the year award. Modeled after the NFL’s Walter Payton Award, it recognizes college players who demonstrate exemplary leadership both on and off the field.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.