Presented annually to the Division I college football player who has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field. The award honors the type of exemplary character and commitment to community, family and teammates demonstrated by Jason Witten, the 2012 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year and one of the most prominent role models in the game.
Nominees are gathered from the Sports Information Directors of each NCAA Division I football-playing institution. Three finalists are selected by the award’s board of directors, and the winner is selected by a panel of prominent former players and coaches, as well as members of the college football media.
The three finalists for the second annual Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year were announced today. In line for the award, which recognizes exemplary leadership both on and off the field, are Auburn’s Derrick Brown, Wisconsin’s D’Cota Dixon and Kansas State’s Dalton Risner.
Selected from a group of 20 semifinalists by a subset of the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Board of Directors, the three finalists have all demonstrated an outstanding record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship. All three will be invited to the award ceremony on February 12, 2019, at The Star in Frisco, Texas, where the winner will be announced.
“I am very proud to announce these three outstanding young men as the finalists for the second annual Collegiate Man of the Year,” said Witten. “Derrick Brown, D’Cota Dixon and Dalton Risner are all outstanding leaders on the field, in the classroom and in the community, and they are shining examples of what being a student-athlete is all about. It was incredibly difficult to choose just three from all of the great players nominated. There are so many great representatives for college football, and I commend all of the nominees for the tremendous example of leadership they set on and off the field.”
Derrick Brown (Jr., DL, Auburn) is one of the nation’s top defensive players. He is a not only a force on the field but an incredible leader off the field as well. He is a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and a member of the SEC Student-Athlete Leadership Council for football. He serves as Auburn SAAC vice-president, and has done Christian-based mission work in the Dominican Republic and also spent time building homes in Montgomery and Auburn, AL, with his church. Brown has been heavily involved with other community projects like Angel Trees, Toys for Tots, campus Student-Athlete Day, Beat Bama food drive, Halloween Trunk or Treat and SAAC clothing drive.
D’Cota Dixon (Sr., S, Wisconsin) is a three-year starter, who was named first-team All-Big Ten last year. He began the 2018 season on the watch lists for the Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy and Wuerffel Trophy. A multiple-semester Dean’s List student, Dixon has been named Academic All-Big Ten each of the last two seasons and was a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar last year. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation psychology. The youngest of four children, Dixon is a product of the foster care system. He has volunteered his time at more than 30 events through the Badgers Give Back community service initiative and has long been one of the group’s most dedicated volunteers across all sports at UW.
Dalton Risner (Sr., OL, Kansas State) is one of the top offensive linemen in the nation and a recent finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy. He is a three-year captain and a First Team Academic All-Big 12 performer each of the last two years. Off the field, Risner’s leadership in the community is evidenced by the countless other community service initiatives he has led. These include the RiseUp Foundation, which he started to encourage everyone to RISE above the evil and sin in this world and be a positive shining light in the lives of others. He is also a frequent visitor to Buttonwood Special Needs Home, and he is a Big Brother to a child fighting leukemia.
The Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year, presented by Albertsons and Tom Thumb, is the first college football honor to focus primarily on a player’s leadership, both on and off the field. The inaugural award was presented to UCF’s Shaquem Griffin last February. Griffin led his team to an undefeated season in 2017 and became one of the most inspirational stories in all of sports.
Leadership is a term synonymous with Jason Witten, who, in addition to becoming one of the best tight ends in the history of the sport and the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver, served as one of football’s most prominent role models during his 15-year pro career. In addition to winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2012, Witten has also received the Bart Starr Award, Pro Football Weekly’s Humanitarian of the Year Award, Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP and the Bob Lilly Award, among many others. All of those honors have recognized his work in the community, achievements on the field and dedication to his teammates and family.
The winner of the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year will also receive a $10,000 contribution in his name to his school’s athletic scholarship fund. The contribution will be made by Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation, the official charity of Jason and his wife Michelle. The SCORE Foundation, founded in 2007, has positively impacted tens of thousands of children and families in Texas and Tennessee over the last 11 years. The foundation operates its nationally-recognized SCOREkeepers program, which places trained male mentors on staff to work with children at family violence shelters, at nine shelters in the two states. SCORE has also operated a weekend food backpack program for disadvantaged children in North Texas, opened Jason Witten Learning Centers in five different Boys & Girls Clubs and opened the Jason and Michelle Witten Emergency Waiting Room at the Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City, Tenn.
Jason Witten presents the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award to UCF’s Shaquem Griffin.