I hope that everyone has enjoyed this Ultimate 53 like I have on DallasCowboys.com. It's great to see all the names from the past teams that are such a great part of the history of this franchise. Tuesday's post of Jason Witten brought a sense of pride that during a period where we struggled finding the right mix of players that we were able to draft Witten out of Tennessee.
For the many things that you can give Bill Parcells credit for during his time with the team, the one that I like to point to was his vision for Jason Witten. I clearly remember in those draft meetings, Parcells painting a clear picture of what he thought that Witten could become. I always respected Parcells for his ability in finding the right tight end for his team. Mark Barvaro with the Giants, Ben Coates with the Patriots and now Witten for the Cowboys.
In that 2003 draft, there were several tight ends that teams were considering. Dallas Clark from Iowa, L.J. Smith from Rutgers, Mike Seidman from UCLA and Witten. Henry Sroka was the area scout that made the school call to Tennessee, with follow-up visits from Walter Juliff and Tom Ciskowski. Each one of these scouts did an outstanding job of not only studying the player's ability on tape but digging out that all important background information.
With all the information in hand, Jerry Jones put Witten on the draft board with a grade of 1.19 which put him in the bottom of the first round. This was a pretty stout grade when you only have 15 to 20 first-round grades on average. As the draft began, we took Terence Newman with our first-round selection and center Al Johnson out of Wisconsin with our second-round pick. In the second round, tight ends Bennie Joppru from Michigan goes to the Texans at 41, L.J. Smith goes to Philadelphia at 61 and the Raiders take Teyo Johnson from Stanford at 63.
The third round begins and Witten's card is now clearly sitting all by itself on the top of our board. Everyone is the room knows that Witten is going to be our choice. Now becomes the point of a draft where your stomach begins to turn. Can he make it five spots to our pick? Is someone going to trade up and snag him? Do we need to trade up? What's wrong with Witten and why hasn't anyone taken him? Bennie Joppru, what were the Texans thinking? All these thoughts go through your head as you are waiting for your pick.
In the round, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Chicago all select before they get to us. The joy of when you finally get to grab your player is unreal. There were high fives all around the room for a job well done. We got our first round tight end with the 69th pick of the draft. Seven picks later, the Panthers draft Seidman but it doesn't matter, we got our guy.
Seven Pro Bowls later and now 55 catches away from the Cowboys' all-time receiving record is quite an accomplishment for Jason Witten, who is more than deserving to take his place among the 53 greatest players in Cowboys history. Congratulations Jason, you made a made a bunch of scouts look smart.