FRISCO, Texas – Jason Witten returned to The Star in Frisco on Tuesday -- for one night only.
The Cowboys legend and former 11-time Pro Bowl tight end presented Wisconsin's D'Cota Dixon with the second annual Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award, which honors a college player for his leadership on and off the field.
Greeted by former Cowboys coaches and teammates prior to the event, Witten told reporters he "missed the heck out of playing" last season following his May retirement. But he deflected questions about any potential comeback as he looks to continue growing with his new team at ESPN as lead analyst for Monday Night Football.
Here are some highlights from his 10-minute visit with the media:
On the process of choosing the Collegiate Man of the Year:
"We got it down to 20 semifinalists, and any one of them could have won it. I'm proud of them because I know what I was thinking about when I was 20 years old and in the midst of going through college. These three guys are just exemplary. I'm proud of them. I proud to have my name a part of that award."
On his growth with the MNF crew:
"I thought we got a lot better as the season went on. We had some really good games. I think we settled in. The first year was a learning experience. I think I learned a lot about the business. I enjoyed getting to know all 32 teams and kind of taking a birds-eye view of the NFL. So I think we grew a lot as the year unfolded."
On the difficulty of leaving the game as a player:
"I think I took it out on my flag football team, my two boys' team (laughs). It's hard to do that. For the first time in my life I was forced to reflect on the journey. A lot of great memories, a lot of moments you think back to and what you would've done different. I knew it wasn't going to be easy when I went through that process. But I'm fortunate to have a job that you can stay around the game. You can jump in, you're studying tape, you're watching it, you want to give good analysis, insightful analysis on the game as it unfolds. That kept me in it. But certainly every chance I had, I was turning on the Cowboys games."
On fans wondering how close he came to a Cowboys comeback last season:
"No, it would've been hard to do that, I think in-season, the challenge of that. Look, those guys did that work. They deserved what they had last year. They put in the time. They were 3-5. They battled back from what they went through. For me, that's where the sense of accomplishment comes from, not catching pass on third-and-7. It's all the work that goes into that that motivates me and what I take gratification from -- doing all the work to get there, not just to come in. That wouldn't have been the right move to come back in the middle of that, even in the midst of wanting to be part of a playoff run or as much as I see myself pulling for them. That wasn't a real possibility."
On Kellen Moore as the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator:
"I think he'll be innovative with this offense and what they try to do as they move forward. I see this offense taking a big step in 2019, I really do. … I think he'll do the things that Dak (Prescott) likes to do. He'll do the things that they have to do to win, and that's the way they have to play. I think he'll use the pass to set up the run and not just the run to set up the pass. I think he'll do a good job of that. Look, they're a run-first team. The strength is Zeke (Elliott) and the offensive line and certainly (Amari) Cooper and Dak and their playmaking ability. But I think he'll add some nice wrinkles to that offense."
On what he loves about TV and if he still feels coaching might be in his future down the road, having grown up in a coaching family:
"I mean, how could I not? I mean, that's what you love. What you love about television is you get to study these guys. The same things that you love about playing, you love about television. I'm sure Tony (Romo) would probably say the same things. It's watching tape, it's studying. I try not to predict my future or think about that long term. I've got a great team around me at Monday Night Football. But I would never say never, you know."