Jan. 21, 2013
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Former Tennessee and current Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year for the second time in his career. Witten also was a finalist in 2007 when Jason Taylor won.
Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Browns tackle Joe Thomas are the other finalists, announced at halftime of the AFC Championship.
The award will be presented in New Orleans, when The Associated Press announces the winners of its annual NFL honours, including Most Valuable Player, in a two-hour prime-time special on Super Bowl eve.
The show, "NFL Honors," will be broadcast on CBS on Feb. 2 at 9 p.m.
The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which is based on a player's community service as well as excellence on the field, is given annually.
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.
The Man of the Year's designated charity receives a $20,000 donation in his name. Charities selected by the other 31 team finalists each receive a $1,000 donation. The three finalists for the award also receive an additional $5,000 each.
In his 10th season in the NFL, Witten has broken many NFL and Cowboy records. He was also elected to his eighth Pro Bowl after missing out last season. All might not have happened after suffering a lacerated spleen during the first game of the preseason.
Witten rebounded nicely and finished the year playing and starting in all 16 games on the year, making a NFL record for a tight end 110 catches for 1,039 yards and three touchdowns. It was the fourth time in his career that he broke the 1,000-yard barrier.
Jason Witten also hit the 800 career catch mark in the final game of the regular season, just the third tight end and 26th player in the history of the NFL to do so, and the fastest. Witten accomplished the feat in just 159 games. With 806 career catches, he is just 10 away from passing Shannon Sharpe (815, 1990-2003) for second place on the All-Time NFL receptions by tight ends list.
He also set a new Cowboys' record for career catches passing Michael Irvin (750) earlier in the season.
Witten also became the second Tennessee product with 100 catches in a season joining Carl Pickens, who had 100 catches in 1996 with the Cincinnati Bengals. Witten now holds the record for most catches by a former Vol in a season with 103.
In a tough loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 28, Witten broke his own Cowboys receiving record and set a league record for tight ends with 18 catches for 167 yards. Only Brandon Marshall, Terrell Owens and Tom Fears have ever caught as many or more passes at any position.