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Jason Witten: 'The journey is the reward'

Tanner Cook • Jun 16, 2018 at 7:39 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The 16th annual Jason Witten football camp at Elizabethton’s Citizens Bank Stadium started out like the camps of past years, but something was different.

“It’s been an incredible journey. I said in my retirement press conference that the journey is the reward,” Witten said. “This is going to be the final camp. It’s been a great ride and I appreciate the community support that we’ve gotten, the coaches that have come for all these years and for their impact and giving back.”

This past spring, Witten — an 11-time Pro Bowler for the Dallas Cowboys and former Elizabethton Cyclones and University of Tennessee star — hung up his cleats after 15 seasons in the NFL. This fall, he will make his debut on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” after taking the place of Jon Gruden, who departed to become coach of the Oakland Raiders.

“I’m excited about working on ‘Monday Night Football.’ It’s a different position, but I’m honored to sit in that chair where John Madden sat and Coach Gruden sat,” Witten said. “I hope to share my knowledge that I’ve gained from the past 15 years and stay around football.”

On Saturday, Witten was the centerpiece of more than 1,200 kids from throughout the country — youth ages 7 to 18 from Johnson City to Jenkins, Ky., to suburban Chicago — all assembled in a small town in Carter County to showcase and enhance their football skills.

The first session was for age ranges 7 to 12, and there were over 800 kids participating at 12 drills stations, specializing in certain skill positions on the field from quarterback to defensive end.

Witten gave three talks to the kids during water breaks and one of his main points of emphasis was telling them to chase their dreams.

“I hope that the kids take a lot of things from the camp. We want to teach them football, but more importantly we want to teach them about life. If I had one message to tell them, it’s to chase their dreams,” he said. “This area has always had a special place in my heart and this is where it all started for me. This is where I began chasing my dreams.”

During the 16 years of the Jason Witten football camp, there have been over 25,000 kids come through the camp, which is nationally known as one of the best youth camps in the country. It is also the largest nonprofit football camp in the nation.

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