FRISCO, Texas — Though he no longer suits up on Sunday anymore for the Cowboys, Jason Witten is still finding ways to stay connected with the franchise in which he spent nearly his entire 17-year career with. On Thursday evening, Witten held his 6th annual Collegiate Man of the Year Award ceremony at The Star in Frisco to honor exemplary leadership in college football.
Deslin Alexandre of the University of Pittsburgh took home the award and a $10,000 contribution to Pitt's athletic scholarship fund in his name courtesy of both Witten and his wife Michelle.
Alexandre won the award for his work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation as well as providing meals and clothing for the homeless in the Pittsburgh area. The other two finalists were Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford and Oregon offensive lineman Alex Forsyth.
Witten, one of four Cowboys in franchise history to win the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award including this season's recipient in Dak Prescott, praised all three of the nominees being honored on Thursday night for their ability to not only excel on the field, but off the field as well.
"I'm honored to be associated with the award in that regard and proud of who they are and what they stand for," Witten said of the honorees. "In the midst of this crazy world to see these young athletes take advantage of their platform and give back to the less fortunate… It's really cool."
The event is done in part with Witten's SCORE Foundation which was founded in 2007 to help put male mentors with children in family violence shelters. Though for Witten, the award and event to honor those giving back in their communities is just his own way of continuing to give back in his own right.
Of course, for the last two seasons Witten has been the head coach at Liberty Christian High School in Argyle, Texas and helped coach the Warriors to a 10-win season. After nearly two decades in the NFL, Witten has been able to help turn the Liberty Christian program around while being able to enjoy time with his family.
"I'm just trying to smell the roses right now," Witten said when asked about his coaching career goals. "I've learned a lot over the last couple of years and it's rewarding to get to coach the kids… You're impacting far more than just Xs and Os."
When asked just how important holding an award ceremony such as he did on Thursday night was for him, Witten made clear just how valuable it is to use the platform he and other athletes are given to do good off the field.
"I think that's part of the platform you have," Witten said. "Certainly, you want to be the best you can be on the field and have goals you want to achieve. But if you just stop there, you're really missing it. That was important to me, and it was something I was taught as a young kid. Certainly, something I learned coming to the Cowboys."
"More than anything else - I'm glad to be associated with [these [players] and see that they're recognized on this stage."