Versatile Witten not without NFL aspirations

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   BLACKSBURG, Va.- During childhood two-hand touch football games in the backyard, kids always dream they're scoring touchdowns with their favorite NFL team.
   One former Elizabethton High standout is trying to make those dreams a reality as an adult.
   Virginia Tech senior Shawn Witten has been training hard since playing out his eligibility three months ago to make a professional football franchise.
   The wide receiver and special teams player recently participated in Pro Day at Virginia Tech in hopes of getting drafted in the NFL.
   "I think there's always that possibility," Witten said as he talked about his draft chances. "I did real well at Pro Day. I would like to have that draft status, but if not I would like to be picked up as a free-agent and get invited to a camp."
   Witten's stock might have gone up in December after a nationally televised game with then No. 1 ranked Miami.
   Pro scouts started taking notice of him after he caught a touchdown pass and performed real well on special teams.
   "That was one of my best games overall," Witten said. "We played real tough against them. I sent that out to a couple of scouts."
   Witten was a very versatile college player. He started the last two years at receiver, but was a fixture all four years on special teams.
   Witten feels his role on maybe the best special teams unit in the country could be his ticket to the next level.
   "I would love to be a big time receiver, but you've got to make your way somehow," Witten said. "I can play on kickoff return and punt return teams. I have lots of capabilities. There are three or four positions I can play."
   If Witten ends up on an NFL roster, he will have company from his own family in the league. His nationally known brother, former Tennessee standout Jason Witten, is expected to be a first or second-round pick in next month's NFL Draft.
   Shawn seems determined to join Jason in the professional ranks. According to the Hokie, it would be a dream come true for his family.
   "It's a big step for us," Witten said. "But the opportunity of living the life of an NFL player would be great. If we get that opportunity, we're going to make the most of it."
   What an opportunity it would be for the Witten brothers if they could land on the same team. The thought has entered Shawn's mind, but he just wants the chance to play in the NFL, no matter what the circumstances.
   "That would be awesome," Shawn said. "I think it would be great, but I just want the opportunity to play in the NFL. The big thing is for us to make it."
   While Witten is pondering his future, he is also thinking about the last four years in Blacksburg.
   Witten had the opportunity to play for one of the best coaches in the country in Frank Beamer, had the chance to play with who is now the NFL's most exciting player in Michael Vick, and also played for a national title his freshman season.
   "I don't think I could have picked a better school to come to," Witten said. "I played for a great head coach, and a great position coach. I couldn't have asked for a better career.
   "I started four years, and went to the national championship game. I couldn't have asked for anything better."
   Witten feels really good about the way he worked at Virginia Tech.
   Former Hokie Anthony Nelson bragged extensively about Witten's work ethic in an interview back during football season.
   "I've worked for everything I've gotten," Witten said. "I've outworked people throughout my career. I think Virginia Tech is going to miss a player like me."
   As a matter of fact, Witten only has one regret about his career at Virginia Tech.
   "I wish we could have played Tennessee," he said. "That would have been the icing on the cake."
   With the NFL Draft just around the corner, Witten believes he will be successful in fulfilling those backyard dreams.
   "I don't want it to end here," Witten said. "If somebody gives me a chance, it will be well worth it."