Bob Lilly is Mr. Cowboy, and you cannot deny it. He was the first player who was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor, their first draft pick and the first Pro Football Hall of Famer coming from the Cowboys. However, Dallas has so many other legends who became the faces of the franchise such as Roger Staubach, Emmitt Smith, and Troy Aikman.
But if there is one player who could get a nickname Mr. Cowboy II, it would be future Hall of Famer and Ring of Honor member, a player who displayed nothing but winning attitude and excellence on and off the court – Jason Witten.
He leads the Cowboys in yards with the total of 11,947, catches with 1,096, plus he has had the most starts and consecutive starts with 214 and 164 respectively. On Sunday, at the game against the Broncos, Witten is going to become the Cowboy’s all-time leader in games played, surpassing Ed Jones’ 224 games.
“It’s certainly flown by,” Witten said. “I think it’s been a collection of years on this journey. You continue to try to get better and better and better, stay focused on that and next thing you look up, and you accomplish something like that. So many great football players come through this organization, the right type of guys, tough mentally and physically. To be able to reach something like that, I’m appreciative of it.”
Witten was mostly healthy during his career, but one of the most severe injuries happened in his rookie season in 2003 when he broke his jaw. That is why the all-time games played record is special. During his off time, he learned about the laws of the coach at the time Bill Parcells who used to say “football players play football in football season.”
When he fractured his jaw, a strength coach asked when Witten was coming back. Trainer Jim Maurer explained that Witten suffered a serious injury and that he had to be rushed to the hospital for surgery. “I come back in a few days later, my mouth is swollen after the surgery, and of course, Bill had the sweet potato baby food waiting for me cause the challenge was keeping your weight up,” Witten said. “I said you got to be kidding.’ And he was serious.”
“He wasn’t going to play me if I didn’t make weight. He was so proud of me that I made weight and was going to get a chance to play. I think he was giving the sweet potato the credit. Little did he know there was a 5-pound weight in my pants. That was a gutsy move on my end as a 20-year-old kid to make that decision, but here I am 15 years later,” continued Witten.
In the meantime, Witten was chased running down the field without a helmet by the Eagles. He suffered a lacerated spleen, but three weeks later he played as a starter in the 2012 season opener. No wonder the Cowboys fans know Witten as Mr. Reliable.
“That’s how we see him,” Lee said. “There is nobody better to represent this franchise, and really no one better to represent the NFL and how you succeed on and off the field. It’s outrageous. For him to be able to play like that, I mean, he’s a legend. We all see him as a legend in this locker room.”
Coach Jason Garrett didn’t exactly want to name Witten Mr. Cowboy but he acknowledged his greatness, and he praised the entire organization. He stated: “You said it, there’s been such a great history here with the Cowboys. The greatest coaches, the greatest players, and the greatest teams. The Cowboys have been a part of that for the last 58 years. Jason Witten fits into the conversation with all of those greats. He’s among the best who have ever played in this organization. It has a lot to do with his production over the last 15 years, it ranks among the best in the history of the National Football League. So, there’s something to be said for that. But it has more to do with his approach each and every day and how he goes about it, the example he sets consistently day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out. He’s a great example for all of us.”
Witten is flattered by being called Mr. Cowboy, but he is respectfully refusing that title and saying Lilly is the one true Mr. Cowboy. He stated: “It’s special. Mr. Lilly said that to me last year. It means a lot coming from somebody like him. You just try to do things the right way, play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. We are looking for consistency, dependability, and availability. That is what this game is all about. That is what I have tried to do and emulate on and off the field.”
“I’m honored to be mentioned with that. To have something like that go with your legacy is special. But I learned real quick who Mr. Cowboy was when I came here. [Lilly] will always be that. Until he passes the baton, I will show my respect,” concluded Jason Witten.