FRISCO, Texas – Jason Witten's NFL career has come to a close.
After a remarkable 15-year career with the Cowboys, the veteran tight end and captain announced in an emotional Thursday press conference that he's retiring from football and ready to "pass the torch to the next generation of Dallas Cowboys."
Speculation has swirled for the past few weeks that the All-Pro tight end might step away to enter the world of broadcasting, and indeed, it's widely reported that Witten will join the Monday Night Football crew for the 2018 season.
Witten was originally selected in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft, at No. 69 overall. He played 15 games his rookie season, missing one game with a broken jaw, and finished with 35 catches for 347 yards.
From that point forward, the Elizabethton, Tenn., native never missed an opportunity to cement his legacy. From the 2004 season until this past January, Witten never missed another game – playing in a Cowboys-record 239 total games and 235 in a row, with 179 consecutive starts.
Along the way, he has racked up plenty of milestones. Witten's Hall of Fame-worthy resume includes 1,152 catches for 12,448 yards and 68 touchdowns. In the process, he picked up 11 Pro Bowl nominations and four All-Pro selections.
For his career, Witten is the Cowboys' all-time leader in career receptions and career yards. His 68 career touchdowns are third-best in franchise history, behind Dez Bryant and Bob Hayes.
Witten was asked about his future as recently as two weeks ago, and he said it was his plan to remain with the Cowboys in 2018.
"There's been a lot of things that have happened over the years – especially the last few months. I guess that's what happens when you get old," he said. "Maybe one day that'll happen. But hopefully I can play until I'm 40 like some of these other guys we're talking about."
Yet reports broke over draft weekend that Witten was considering retirement. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said last Friday that he met with Witten multiple times and the veteran tight end needed a few days to contemplate his future.
His professional future is now in television, where he'll remain around the game he loves. And he'll likely have a place in Canton as a Pro Football Hall of Famer one day.