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Childhood pain moves Cowboys' Witten to help victims of abuse

Staff Report • Feb 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

According to Christian sports Web site BPSports.net, many NFL players occasionally throw a requisite bone to charities to satisfy their team’s public relations staff.

But Elizabethton's Jason Witten is the rare breed who cherishes self-sacrifice; is motivated by the pain, confusion and consequences of domestic violence that he endured as a child.

He doesn’t want others to experience what he did growing up, and uses his platform as an NFL star to fight the battle.

The six-year veteran tight end of the Dallas Cowboys, and former Tennessee Volunteer, grew up with an abusive father in the greater Washington, D.C. area. When Jason was 11, his mother, Kim, relocated her three sons to Elizabethton, Tenn., to live with her father, Dave Rider. There, Jason experienced a model of true biblical manhood from his grandfather, who was also his football coach at Elizabethton High School.

“It’s amazing how God works in our lives,” said Witten, whose Cowboys finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs this season.

Witten now devotes untold hours to a myriad of different organizations, mostly involving children, the underprivileged and survivors of shattered homes. He also recently started his own foundation, S.C.O.R.E., which supports families in crisis.

Witten says he has learned much from his wife, Michelle, and the godly family she was raised in – a luxury he didn’t have as a young child.

“My wife is so strong in her faith and is such a follower of Christ,” he said. “Having her beside me encourages me. It’s neat to experience the [Christian] walk with her.”

The Wittens have two young boys, C.J. and Cooper, who consistently inspire Jason to be the kind of father figure he lacked early on. They also provide living proof of the benefits of a loving family structure, which he is trying to support through his foundation.

“It’s about being a man and a role model,” said Witten, who claims he holds no grudge against his father. “We take in not just the mothers involved [in domestic abuse] but the children affected by it. That’s something we’re really active in, and also underprivileged children as a whole. God has blessed me enough to do it because of the game I play.”

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