It's weird to think of this as sort of ancient history considering Jason Witten is still only 29 years old, but eons ago, way back in 2003 when he was drafted, Tony Sparano was just starting out on the Cowboys staff.
He wasn't yet the offensive line coach, as he would become. Instead, he worked with the tight ends. In the first draft of the Bill Parcells era, there was one player Sparano had to have - Witten, a 20-year old from Tennessee who hadn't even filled out just yet, and was slipping into the third round.
In the Valley Ranch war room, Sparano made his case.
"There's a lot of people in that building that could say a lot of things about me, but I was on the table for this player," Sparano, now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, said on Tuesday. "So, I mean, there aren't a lot of things that I don't like about Jason Witten. Nevermind what kind of player he is right now, because he's pretty darn good. The type of player he is is one thing, but the type of kid he is is completely different. I mean, he's a hell of a guy and a person that I think an awful lot about.
Witten left Tennessee third in the school's tight end reception rankings after his junior year, and Sparano liked what he saw.
"I can remember watching a bunch of film on the guy prior to the draft," Sparano said. "The thing that jumped out at me was just his ability to run and his ability to get in bad body positions and make plays. He can kind of catch the balls on the back shoulder, catch the low balls ... he got out of trouble easily as a tight end, and I think that's a good quality to have.
"He showed you enough things on film from a blocking standpoint, but then once you sat down and visited with him, you knew that this kid had a burning desire to be really good ... this kid wanted to be the total package, and he certainly has become that and more."
How monumental that 2003 class was to turning around the Cowboys, who picked Terence Newman in the first round, Witten in the third, Bradie James in the fifth and signed an undrafted Tony Romo as a free agent.