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Inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man Of The Year Award Begins This Season

The inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year, presented by Albertsons and Tom Thumb, will be awarded at the conclusion of the 2017 college football season. The award will recognize the College Football Bowl Subdivision player who has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field. It will honor the type of exemplary character and commitment to community, family and teammates demonstrated by Jason Witten, the 10-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Dallas Cowboys and the 2012 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Nominees for the honor are submitted from the sports information directors of the various NCAA FBS schools. Three finalists will be selected by the award's board of directors in November, and the winner will be chosen by a panel of prominent former players and coaches, as well as representatives of the college football media. The inaugural winner will be announced in December, and he will receive the award at the first Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Banquet in February. The event will be held at The Star in Frisco, Texas, the state-of-the-art new practice facility of the Dallas Cowboys.

The Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year will be the first college football honor to focus primarily on a player's leadership, both on and off the field. Leadership is a term synonymous with Jason Witten, who, in addition to becoming one of the best tight ends in the history of the sport and the Cowboys' all-time leading receiver, has served as one of football's most prominent role models during his 15-year pro career. In addition to winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2012, Witten has also received the Bart Starr Award, Pro Football Weekly's Humanitarian of the Year Award, Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP and the Bob Lilly Award, among many others. All of those honors have recognized his work in the community, achievements on the field and dedication to his teammates and family.

"I am proud to be associated with the Collegiate Man of the Year," said Witten. "It is my hope that this honor will encourage and inspire the next generation of student-athletes to not only perform at a high level on the field, but to use the platform to make a positive impact on campus and in the community."

Before being drafted by the Cowboys in 2003, Witten starred at the University of Tennessee from 2000 to 2002, compiling 68 catches for 797 yards and seven touchdowns over 36 career games. He started his career as a defensive end and saw action on special teams as a freshman in 2000. Midway through that season, he switched to tight end. By his junior season, Witten had established himself as one of the best tight ends in the country. That year, he set UT tight end records with 39 catches, 493 receiving yards and five touchdowns and earned Fourth Team All-America honors from The Sporting News and Honorable Mention All-America accolades from Sports Illustrated. Witten was also named a 2002 First Team All-SEC selection by both the AP and the coaches.[embeddedad0]

"Jason Witten is the perfect man, player, leader, and roll model to have his name on this award," said Phillip Fulmer, Witten's college coach at the University of Tennessee. "Jason has achieved, overcome, worked, and led at the highest level of collegiate and professional football; all the while maintaining his integrity, passion, compassion, and character as a husband, father, and community leader. I am proud of Jason as he continues to represent UT, The Dallas Cowboys, and all that is good in sports on a daily basis."

The inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year will also receive a $10,000 contribution in his name to his school's athletic scholarship fund. The contribution will be made by Jason Witten's SCORE Foundation, the official charity of Jason and his wife Michelle. The SCORE Foundation, founded in 2007, has positively impacted tens of thousands of children and families in Texas and Tennessee over the last 10 years. The foundation operates its nationally-recognized SCOREkeepers program, which places trained male mentors on staff to work with children at family violence shelters, at nine shelters in the two states. SCORE has also operated a weekend food backpack program for disadvantaged children in North Texas, opened Jason Witten Learning Centers in five different Boys & Girls Clubs and opened the Jason and Michelle Witten Emergency Waiting Room at the Niswonger Children's Hospital in Johnson City, Tenn.

"There is no more appropriate person in our sport—at any level--to have his name associated with an award that represents character, dignity, service to others and responsibility than Jason Witten," said Charlotte Jones Anderson, Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer of the Dallas Cowboys. "This award will honor the standard that Jason has set for leadership, both on and off the field, and it will serve as an inspiration to football players for generations to come."

Albertsons and Tom Thumb, in a close partnership with Witten and his foundation over the last decade, will be the presenting sponsor of the award.

"On behalf of Albertsons Companies Southern Division, we have been honored to partner with Jason Witten for the last ten years," said Albertsons Companies Southern Division President Dennis Bassler. "We value our partnership with him not because he is a great football player but more importantly because he is an outstanding man of character and integrity off the field, in the community and at home. We are honored to support this great new college football award."

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