For 15 years, Jason Witten was one of the most dependable athletes in any sport. He only missed one game — an absence that came in his rookie season — and caught at least 60 passes every single year after his debut campaign. Widely respected around the league for his impact both on and off the field, Witten is also a triumphant story of one who overcame childhood abuse to become one of the best tight ends in the history of the league. He was the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award winner in 2012. The recently retired 36-year-old has inspired countless youngsters hoping to follow his path to NFL stardom. Among those inspired was Eagles standout Zach Ertz.
The 27-year-old fellow tight end tweeted out his appreciation for Witten on Saturday night.
— Zach Ertz (@ZERTZ_86) May 5, 2018
That’s Ertz holding up what appears to be a game-worn Jason Witten jersey and posting the following message:
First off I want to say congratulations to someone that had a profound impact on my career, by just being the man he is! At 17 years old when I was trying to figure out what a tight end meant and what they embodied I started following the tight end for the Cowboys. Everything he did, on the field and off, I tried to emulate. I studied him so much, if it was 3rd & 7, I know what play was coming and I knew how he would attack the defender on the Y-Option. It’s remarkable the impact athletes can have on our society just by carrying themselves the right way, respecting others and pursuing excellence. So from now on when you look up the definition of Tight End, it should be a picture of this jersey and nothing else. Thank you Witt for being you and being someone a 17-year-old kid from California could say, “That’s who I want to be like when I grow up!” And like you always say THE SECRET’S IN THE DIRT!
It’s a touching tribute from Witten’s former division rival. Ertz has a long way to go to achieve the individual heights that Witten, who is fourth on the all-time catches list, went to 11 Pro Bowls and was twice an NFL All-Pro, did. But Ertz, who made his first Pro Bowl in 2017 and won a Super Bowl in February, seems to be well on his way to having a very successful career thanks to years and years of studying his idol.