Wittens give back to region with football camp

By Ivan Sanders

   Several years ago, a group of young men made Elizabethton their home, and since that time have made a large impact on the sports scene in Carter County.
   Those young men are the Witten brothers -- Ryan, Shawn and Jason, and now they are looking to give something back to the area they have brought national attention to.
   The first annual Jason Witten Football Camp is slated for Saturday morning, June 21, at appropriately enough, Dave Rider Field named in honor of their legendary grandfather, who coached all three boys at Elizabethton High School. Activities will begin at 9 a.m. with final registration and will come to a close at 1 p.m. with an autograph and photo session.
   "Our motto or theme for the camp is 'Dreams Do Come True'," stated Ryan Witten, the eldest of the trio.
   "Jason always had a dream of being a Cyclone, then a Tennessee Vol, and finally a player in the NFL and has been able to see all those dreams come to pass."
   Participants are in for a treat as Jason Respert, Robert Peace and the possibility of an appearance by Casey Clausen along with other former teammates of Jason's at Tennessee as well as some of Shawn's teammates from Virginia Tech are going to be on hand to demonstrate football drills, talk football, and have a photo and autograph session.
   Also, some former Cyclones are returning to lend a hand with the football camp. Stephen Trivette, Adam Walton, and current Happy Valley coach Greg Hyder have indicated they will all be present to help the campers along with the Wittens.
   The camp will be for youngsters between the ages of 8 and 14 years old at a cost of $30 per camper. Parents and friends can watch from the stands and then meet the players during the photo and autograph session.
   "The main thing is we want the campers to have fun," said Witten. "Every camper will receive a T-shirt along with drinks."
   This will be one of the last few opportunities people will have to see Jason as the youngest Witten will gain a bride in July and then head for the Dallas Cowboy training camp in preparation for the upcoming season.
   Added Ryan: "We are planning on having a punt, pass, and kick competition and will be giving awards to the winners. There will also be a 100 percent award given to a camper who might not be the best player, but goes all out in the camp."
   Plans are to line the field off just like during football season and make for a memorable time for the kids in attendance. The Wittens hope this will be an ongoing annual event that will continue to grow.
   "We know the first one is always the toughest, but we hope it will continue to grow," said Witten. "We also hope to eventually get the age gap spread apart to the point where high school players can actually come and participate."
   The STAR is sponsoring the event and applications can be found in the today's and Sunday's edition. Participants are encouraged to get to the field as early as possible on the day of the camp to get their registration process completed.
   Also, campers are encouraged to bring the items they would like to get autographed by the players present at the camp.
   The Wittens are proud of growing up in a small community like Elizabethton and Carter County, Tennessee. With the camp, they are hoping to say a big 'Thanks' to everyone who has given them the support and encouragement they needed to make their dreams come to reality.