In past years, the Cowboys ended organized team activities with paintball, bowling and fishing. This time, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett decided to do something more substantial.
The Cowboys hosted their first Dallas Cowboys U high school football camp for 160 underserved student-athletes in the area, with a seven-on-seven tournament ending Thursday morning's activities. Tight end Jason Witten's team beat offensive tackle Doug Free's team in the final.
"It’s a collective idea," Garrett said. "It’s something very similar to what I’ve done with my wife and our foundation up at Princeton for a lot of years now. That’s the format we used. I’ve been on a lot of teams as a player and as a coach and typically the last day of OTAs we do a lot of different, creative things. We decided to do this instead. We think it’s really good for a lot of different reasons. The chemistry and camaraderie on our football team first and foremost, but then to reach out in the community and get these very deserving kids to come out and have a day that they’ll never forget, interact with our players, have a fun day, teach them about football and maybe teach them about some life skills as well. I think it’s a win-win for everybody, and I think everybody embraced the opportunity."
The other head coaches for the tournament were Tony Romo, Gerald Sensabaugh, Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, Sean Lee and Miles Austin. They drafted their assistant coaches Thursday morning.
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"I think Jason [Garrett] has a great sense of understanding that when much is given, much is expected," Romo said. "I think he wants to give back to the community and give back to some people who at different times could use it. It’s a great way to get out here, and not just for the kids but for our football team, so it’s great to see."
Witten spent Wednesday night putting plays together, scrapping the plays Garrett gave the coaches. Witten instead installed a no-huddle offense, using code words.
"Well, these plays are getting a little wet. The rain got on them," Witten said of his play sheets. "They crumbled up on me. But don’t think they’re not going to be on coach Garrett’s desk by the morning. Hold onto those. I’ve got a few plays up my sleeve. It definitely fun to be able to do that. It provides a different perspective to be a coach."
The winning team received trophies, and Witten said it means as much as any award he's won.
"I’ll hold this trophy and keep in the house for sure," Witten said. "A lot of bragging rights with 80 other men in that locker room."
Free's team lost by a touchdown after being down three scores in the 20-minute game that had a running clock.
"He was rolling good. I ain't going to lie," Free said of Witten. "He had a good thing going. We started off a little slow but came back pretty strong at the end. Just lost by a score, so we came back and made a play for it. I’m really proud of my guys for coming back after being down a couple scores. You could have easily shut it down."
-- Charean Williams