When Jason Witten retired from playing football for the first time, he quickly landed a coveted job as an NFL analyst for ESPN. Having recently stopped playing again, the decorated tight end is set for another speedy transition to a different role in football — this time as the head coach at a Dallas-area high school.
“Faith. Family. Football,” Witten, who spent 16 years with the Dallas Cowboys before playing this season with the Las Vegas Raiders, said Monday in a statement. He is taking over the program at Liberty Christian in Argyle, Tex., which says its mission is to “inspire and equip leaders who will impact the world for Christ.”
Witten, 38, has ties to the school, whose president said Monday that the 11-time Pro Bowl pick has been “part of our Liberty Christian family for more than 8 years.” It is located approximately 30 miles north of AT&T Stadium, home of the Cowboys since 2009.
“In this next chapter,” Witten said, “it is important to me to be the best father and husband I can be, while making a positive impact in the community and share the wisdom I’ve accumulated over the years to positively impact the next generation.”
Liberty Christian School is excited to announce our new Head Football Coach Jason Witten. Jason, former Dallas Cowboy tight end and long-time Liberty parent will be joining the Liberty Christian coaching staff as Head Football Coach. It’s a great day to be a Warrior! pic.twitter.com/SPtdSqvxID— Liberty Christian (@LibertyArgyle) February 1, 2021
A third-round draft pick by Dallas in 2003, Witten went on to post the second-most receptions and receiving yards of any tight end in NFL history, with the fifth-most touchdowns. He was used sparingly by the Raiders in the passing game this season, catching 13 passes for 69 yards and two scores.
Witten first retired after the 2017 season, and he spent 2018 as a color commentator on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” However, his immediate transition from the field to the booth did not go nearly as well as that of former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Witten was widely panned for verbal gaffes and poor chemistry with play-by-play man Joe Tessitore and fellow analyst Anthony “Booger” McFarland, and Witten acknowledged in April 2019 that he “took a beating.”
By then, he had agreed to rejoin the Cowboys, and after two more seasons, Witten announced last week that he was walking away from the NFL for a second time. He told ESPN that he would sign a one-day contract in March with Dallas so he could retire as a member of the team for which he ranks as the franchise leader in targets, receptions, receiving yards, games played and games started.
“A coach once told me, ‘The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example,’ ” Witten said to ESPN. “As I hang it up, I walk away knowing that for 17 seasons I gave it my absolute all. I am proud of my accomplishments as a football player on the field and the example I tried to set off of it. Football is a great game that has taught me many valuable lessons, and I look forward to passing on that knowledge to the next generation.”
Witten follows former quarterback Philip Rivers, who was announced last year as the coach-in-waiting at a Catholic high school in Alabama. Rivers, at the time coming off 16 years with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, spent the 2020 season with the Indianapolis Colts before calling it quits in January.
Saying Monday he was “very excited” about Witten joining the Liberty Christian coaching staff, Athletic Director Johnny Isom said: “Jason has been a loyal parent in our community for a long time, so he already knows first-hand the excellence that Liberty brings to all areas of our school. Additionally, he is a man of deep faith with a background rooted in hard work and family; something I know our athletes will benefit from witnessing. The football program will be in great hands under his leadership and I cannot wait to see the impact that he will have on the lives of athletes.”
Super Bowl LV: What you need to read