Witten bound for Honolulu


 
  This year, Jason Witten has added several accomplishments to his football playing resume.
  On Wednesday, the prestigious Pro Bowl was added to that list.
  In just his second professional season, the 22-year old Elizabethton native was rewarded for what many professionals deem a once-in-a-lifetime season with the Dallas Cowboys.
  Witten set two single-season franchise records Sunday at Philadelphia -- the most single-season receptions and yards -- and is ranked in the top four of many of the NFL's positional categories which has made many defenses focus their attention to him.
  To believe that he did all of this in his second season, and to be one of four tight ends to earn the trip to Hawaii, is simply amazing.
  "I know there's a lot of good players out there, and to be in this group is special," Witten told members of the Dallas media Wednesday. "But at the same time, I've got a lot of hard work I have to put into that, and expectations are up. People will expect this out of you for years to come."
  He joins Atlanta Falcon tight end Alge Crumpler on the NFC squad, while San Diego's Antonio Gates and Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez fill the two slots on the AFC unit.
  As of Sunday's games, Jason ranks fourth in the league among tight ends with 73 receptions for 853 yards and five touchdowns with an 11.7 yard-per-catch average.
  Jay Novacek (who had 68 receptions in 1992) and Doug Cosbie (who tallied 793 yards in 1985) saw their Cowboys single season marks vanish Sunday to Witten, who is also on pace to be the first tight end to lead the team in receptions since Cosbie did it in 1984
  With two games left, Witten can achieve that goal as Keyshawn Johnson needs 13 receptions to catch the tight end.
  Much of Jason's success this season can be attributed to growing up in a football family here in Elizabethton.
  Witten learned to work hard at a young age and he still applies those lessons to the professional game.
  "They like him for that," said Jason's grandfather and high school coach, Dave Rider. "Jason's been a hard worker his whole life. He's been blocking well and catching the ball this season, and they've been using him at four or five different positions."
  One of those lessons Jason learned was the team-first attitude. Rider says Jason is proud of his individual goals, but wanted more success for his team, which has been a disappointment with its 5-9 record.
  "It's tough for him," Rider said. "He comes from a coaching family where the team always comes first. He looks at the team and that's the most important part. He wants his team to win and he's doing the best he can. He's had some good games."
  Perhaps Jason's best outings have been in the prime time spotlight against the league's best competition.
  Against the NFC's top team, the Philadelphia Eagles, earlier in the season on Monday Night Football, legendary NFL analyst and former Super-Bowl champion coach John Madden raved about what he called "the Witten kid."
  He had good reason as Jason made nine grabs for 133 yards and two scores against a defense filled with stars. That game made defenses work their game plans around Witten.
  Witten also held his own against the coverage of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in their November meeting, and shone brightly in his first Monday night outing of the year at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers with 112 yards on eight grabs with a 42-yard score.
  His teammates have noticed his work ethic and desire to improve over the season. So has his coach Bill Parcells.
  Parcells is high on Witten, but pushes him weekly. While announcing the team's Pro Bowl participants on Wednesday, Parcells waited until the end to mention Jason's name.
  "They saw how hard I worked at it and so they were supportive," Witten said of his teammates. "I got guys like Vinny and (Dallas tight ends coach) Tony Sparano that I could see were very happy because without them I wouldn't have had this success."
  Said Testaverde: "I can't be more happy for a guy than Jason Witten. He's everything you like your kids to grow up and be. I mean it."
  As happy as the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas fans are, nobody is as happy as Jason's family back here in Elizabethton.
  "We're all tickled to death," said Rider. "To be an All-Pro, that's something, and to be chosen to the Pro Bowl is great. He's had a great year and we wish the Cowboys had've won a little more, but we're all elated."
  Three other Cowboys, offensive lineman Larry Allen, defensive lineman La'Roi Glover and safety Roy Williams also made the NFC Pro Bowl squad.
  The game will take place on Sunday, Feb. 15th at Honolulu's Aloha Stadium.
  Information from the official Dallas Cowboys website (http://dallascowboys.com) was used in this report.