IRVING, Texas -- There are few better places for Jason Witten than a football field.
On Sunday, Witten held his yearly ProCamp at Liberty Christian High School in Argyle, Texas, for more than 500 kids in Grades 1-8.
“The staff does a great job because they know I want to be active, that I want to be involved,” Witten said. “I want to reach every kid, hopefully throw them a touchdown pass or get an interception from me. I think it’s important that not only do they get a chance to hear me talk, but they get to see me interact with them. That’s something I always try to do and think it’s what makes this camp so special.”
There is something about the camp that invigorates Witten as well. The Cowboys are a month into their offseason program but Witten’s offseason work started almost a month earlier than that when he and the leaders of the team started captains’ workouts.
The camp reminds Witten why he loves the game. He sees it in the reactions of the kids at the camp.
“In general, childhood sports were a big part of my life, my brothers and my family and obviously football was a big part of my life,” Witten said. “I learned through adversity and losing and not being a starter and also learned from the successes that came with it.
“Growing up in a football family I couldn’t imagine my life without the game of football and what it has taught me. Forget what it has been able to provide me the last 14 years professionally, but there’s just been so many good things in my family through the game of football. Not possessions. More just character traits, integrity traits that I developed through my experiences in the game.”
Witten turned 34 earlier this month. He is entering his 14th season. Last season he became one of 13 players with 1,000 catches in NFL history and just the second tight end. He has played in 10 Pro Bowls. He is the Cowboys’ all-time leader in receptions.
He has accomplished more than he thought possible when the Cowboys made him a third-round pick in 2003. The only thing left to accomplish is a Super Bowl, which is why he spends hours and hours at Valley Ranch in the offseason.
“I love being around there,” Witten said. “I think there’s so much that goes into building a team, seeing players maximize their abilities. That’s working out. That’s on the field training. That’s film work. That entails everything that goes into it. People talk about the process and coach [Jason] Garrett talks about it a lot. A lot of others do too, the great coaches, the great players in this game, they respect that process. That’s what I try to do, be true in how I evaluate myself and be honest with myself. And then it’s, ‘How am I going to do it?’”
In an offseason in which a lot of his contemporaries retired, like Jared Allen, Calvin Johnson, Justin Tuck, Jerod Mayo and Charles Woodson, Witten thinks only about his craft, like running a corner route.
“It was our fourth teaching session last Thursday and I was running a seven cut,” he said. “I wanted to perfect it. I wanted that seven cut to so good. I think I have that fire. I have that drive. I don’t know if it ever slows down. For some people it might slow down. I don’t know. I know I’ve got it moreso today than I ever have. It’s motivating me. Obviously coming off last year, the offseason can’t end quick enough. You want to get back at it and get the taste out of your mouth and get a chance to compete and start the process over again.”
And that’s where the camp comes in. It’s trite to say it keeps Witten young, but it’s true. Growing up, he went to football camps and remembers the stories coaches told him.
“You have to provide perspective for yourself in so many different ways,” Witten said. “To do that, being on a football field in May in Texas, it definitely reminds you of that because so many of these kids have so many dreams and hopes of one day being there.”