Dallas Cowboys fans were undoubtedly taken by surprise when veteran tight end Jason Witten announced that after a year-long retirement, he was coming back to to the NFL and re-joining the team he called home for 14 years. Although he’s never won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys, Witten understands that competitive mentality and how fan participation fuels his desire to play his best game week after week
Yahoo Sports spoke with Witten in South Beach and 11-time Pro Bowler opened up about his partnership with Courtyard Marriott, his thoughts on new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and whether he plans on returning for a 16th season.
Yahoo Sports: How did the encouragement from Cowboys fans play into your desire to return to Dallas and was that an easy decision?
Jason Witten: Well, the fans have been a tremendous role model. I feel like the platform that I have developed over the course of my career has been great. Today’s players have such a better opportunity than when I came into the league. So, I think the NFL has done a good job of making it an experience even during the offseason and not just on game day. You can really see that here in Miami with Marriott, too. I have such a sense of gratitude being able to play for the same team my entire career and seeing the fans reaction to my return made it worth it. They wanted me to experience it just as bad as I wanted it.
YS: Considering the changes in Dallas coaching-wise, how does that impact your next career moves and do you see the league changing for the better as a result of the improved regulations, team moves and anticipated stadium openings?
JW: Well, I think the league understands that it’s not just a priority about television ratings and dollars. It’s really about the experience supporters share together and uniting a fan base. So, the draft is bigger, more coverage of the Pro Bowl and just more access to players. With Marriott, fans are awarded benefits one couldn’t dream of realizing. The players are also embracing their roles as leaders and you have to understand that when fans might boo, it’s not always directed toward them. I’m not sure what I’ll do next, but it will definitely still involve football being at the forefront.
YS: The San Francisco 49ers have the distinction of having the first woman to be on a Super Bowl coaching staff, which is remarkable. Can you speak a little to how even this achievement is the start of something special in the NFL? After all, we could be eventually seeing the first woman commissioner or a female analyst calling the Super Bowl.
JW: Well, not only do I expect it, but I know that women in these male-dominated roles will multiply sooner rather than later. I have a friend I played with who is now an assistant on the offensive staff in San Francisco. He constantly says, “she’s an amazing coach.” Look, if they’re a good coach and can handle the responsibility, then let’s move past the nuances. The amount of women being promoted to decision-making roles not only on the field but around the NFL will truly grow the game and attract a new audience of fans.
YS: Speaking of coaching, what do you think of McCarthy?
JW: I like Mike. Honestly, I haven’t spent a lot of time with him. But, I’ve had good, honest conversations with him and I think his track record in Green Bay speaks for itself. I think he’s inheriting a really talented roster and I think it’s a great opportunity for him. So, he’s been first class.
Through its annual Super Bowl Sleepover contest, Courtyard, the “Official Hotel of the NFL” for nine years, wanted to celebrate the game-changing friendship of one NFL fan along with a group of their friends who have encouraged each other to follow their passion. Due to their longevity in the league, this unique partnership that has allowed them to create incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experiences for their passionate guests and Marriott Bonvoy members that bring them closer to the game.
Other unbelievable experiences included brunch with NFL legends and on-field access to watch the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime show, which featured performances by singers Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.