Lindy's awards All-American status to Witten

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   KNOXVILLE -- While people around the nation this week will be celebrating America, the city of Elizabethton can now celebrate an All-American college football player.
   Tennessee tight end Jason Witten, a former standout at Elizabethton High School, was recently named a second-team All-American by the publication "Lindy's."
   Witten became a starter last year as a sophomore, and had several big games for the Vols.
   His performances caught the eye of Lindy's, and the rising junior is glad to be considered among the best in the country.
   "A lot goes along with being an All-American," Witten said. "It's a lot to live up to. I've worked hard to be an All-American. Hopefully, I can live up to it and lead this team to an SEC championship and a national championship."
   Football fans in Elizabethton have gotten to see Witten shine since he was a freshman in high school. With Witten getting this honor, he is grateful to the town that gave him his start.
   Witten is also grateful to his friends for sticking with him through the rough times.
   "I'm thankful to have the support from family and friends," Witten said. "I received a lot of encouragement from people after the Florida game, which was a rough game for me. It's great to be from Elizabethton and have that support."
   After an impressive Florida Citrus Bowl against Michigan, a game that saw Witten catch a 64-yard touchdown pass, many die-hard Tennessee Volunteer fans probably expected Witten to be an All-American. But Witten was surprised when he learned about the honor.
   "I was shocked," Witten said. "You're always saying that you're good enough to be that, but I never thought this opportunity would be in front of me."
   The only shocking thing about this is probably the fact Tennessee has an All-American tight end, as just a couple of years ago that would have been about impossible.
   The Vols have never been known for throwing to the tight end. That is until Witten showed up.
   Witten wanted to play defense at first, but was moved to tight end as a freshman. After seeing sparse action his first year, people were wondering if the Vols would even throw it to him.
   Last year, that finally happened.
   Witten's breakout game came against Alabama. He caught seven passes for 91 yards and scored his first touchdown in that contest.
   That was a sure sign throwing to the tight end had arrived at Tennessee. Witten believes it provided another weapon to the Tennessee football team.
   "It's been great for our football team, because there's another aspect on the offensive side of the ball that can really make a difference in the game," Witten said.
   Witten wants quarterback Casey Clausen, a potential Heisman Trophy candidate this season, to know that he's ready to catch Clausen's passes at any time.
   "A quarterback needs his receivers, and I want Casey to know I'm there every time he needs me," Witten said.
   The quest to get to the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship game has already started for the Volunteers. Witten and the rest of the Tennessee players are working hard this summer to make that dream a reality.
   "We're working to get to the Fiesta Bowl," Witten said. "We've got a great opportunity. We're going to take it one week at a time. We've just got to stay focused on winning the national title."
   The national title is the honor Witten wants most. Witten thinks the individual honors are great, but he would rather get that ring.
   "That's why you come to Tennessee," Witten said. "We're going to be hungry. Coming off the loss to LSU last year, the football team knew we had it in our hands and let it go. We have the talent. If we can put it together and take it one week at a time, then everything will take care of itself."
   If Witten has another big season, things could get interesting in the winter. Rumors have been circulating about the tight end possibly declaring himself for the NFL Draft at the end of the year.
   Witten currently plans to be back, but is keeping his options open.
   "It's a great opportunity to have that choice," Witten said. "I'm not going to worry about it until the season is done. Right now, I plan to be here all four years. But there's no doubt that I will make the best decision. I'm going to take it one day at a time, get through this season, and make my decision from there."