Dallas Cowboys' All-Pro tight end Jason Witten disproved the tired old cliché "good guys finish last" last night by winning the 2012 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award at the second annual NFL Honors ceremony in New Orleans.
The prestigious honor is bestowed annually to recognize a player for both his community service and on-field excellence. Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman are the only other Cowboys to win the award as they were recipients in 1978 and 1997 respectively.
"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. "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's easy to overlook Witten both on and off the field because everything he does is quiet and understated. Rather than talking with his mouth, he does his talking through action.
Ever since 2003, Witten has been involved in a wide variety of community activities. As a rookie, Witten participated in the Dallas Cowboys Rookie Club. He has made numerous school visits (JC Penney Take a Player to School representative) and has worked with a variety of organizations including the Children's Cancer Fund, United Way, SPCA of Texas and North Texas Food Bank. Along with being a National NFL representative for the NFL's Play 60 program, he also hosts a free football camp for over 1,200 kids in his hometown. Through his charitable SCORE Foundation, Witten has helped fund several building projects in Texas and in his native Tennessee.
Drafted in the third round of the 2003 NFL Amateur Draft out of the University of Tennessee, Witten has authored an amazing NFL career through his reliable hands, relentless blocking and running after the catch as well as being a consummate professional. The future Hall of Famer's 2012 season is by far the best of his career both by the numbers and once again, his actions.
Despite suffering a lacerated spleen during a pre season game against the Oakland Raiders, Witten managed to make opening night against the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Despite only catching 2 passes for 10 yards, his mere presence further cemented him a one of the club's most revered leaders while being a formidable weapon for the Giants' vaunted defense to account for. After recovering from this serious injury and fighting through a frustratingly slow start, Witten hit his stride. He set the NFL single-season record for receptions by a tight end with a career high 110 catches. Along with passing by Michael Irvin to become the Cowboys all-time receptions leader, the eight-time Pro Bowler's 806 career receptions places him third on the NFL's all-time tight end receptions board.