In 2018, for the first time since Jason Witten's rookie season, he would not be serving meals to the Salvation Army Carr P. Collins Social Service Center clients. Instead, he would be preparing for the New York Giants facing the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., as a member of the Monday Night Football play-by-play team.
When Witten declared in February that he was leaving Monday Night Football to return to the Dallas Cowboys, it meant he would be a part of that Salvation Army tradition again.
"Some of those fans, I think there's been some of those surreal moments this year just coming back from retirement," Witten told reporters Tuesday. "I'm assuming they probably thought they would never see me again. I've taken the time to reflect on it and I think every step of the way you kind of take a step back and smell the roses a little bit, and this is one of those moments."
As per usual, Witten brought some of his children to help serve the clients. While his wife, Michelle, was again present, their sons, Christopher and Cooper, were busy at school. In their stead were younger sisters, Landry and Hadley, to help carry the trays of Thanksgiving meals.
"They've been doing it for 15 years," Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer Charlotte Jones Anderson said. "So, it's great that they can come and this is a family shelter. And you see kids in here with their moms. And, so, it's nice for those young kids to learn at an early age how important it is to give back."
What Witten seeks to instill in his daughters as they help the Salvation Army clients is that they can make a difference in the lives of the underprivileged.
Said Witten: "I just try to tell them, 'Look, you're going to have an opportunity to give back to people that are less fortunate.' They do it with a happy heart. I think they like seeing those fans and being able to hand out that food."
Being kids and attracted to sweets as they are, Hadley and Landry asked Witten if they could have some of the desserts they were serving, specifically the cake.
"It's great because my youngest one is like, 'Can I have a piece of cake?' No, we're here to give not receive," said Witten. "So, I think as a parent, playing football as long as I have, that's what we all hope that we can accomplish someday is that our kids can be a part of it and can remember we were able to make a difference too."
The Cowboys also teamed up with Essilor and the Essilor Vision Foundation to provide vision screenings and eyeglasses at no cost to the clients participating in the shelter's long-term programs, which represents nearly $25,000 of services and products donated to the Salvation Army.
"It's always a day I enjoy being a part of, keep being a part of it," Witten said. "It's good to see all those fans."
In the spirit of Witten and the Cowboys giving, give Mark your thoughts on the chances that Dallas can win a second consecutive NFC East title on Twitter @therealmarklane.