Vols TE Witten to enter NFL Draft

Tennessee tight end Jason Witten, right, hugs quarterback Casey Clausen Monday after announcing he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

(AP Photo)
Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 13, 2003 at 11:32 p.m.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee tight end Jason Witten announced Monday he will enter the NFL draft.

Witten, a junior who became one of the best tight ends in the country the last two seasons, told a news conference he was ready to forgo his senior year of eligibility for the pros.

``I talked with a lot of people from general managers to agents or anybody I could get a hold of. Saying that, my family and I sat down and I made a decision that is best for my future,'' Witten said, his voice cracking from emotion.

He said he has been told he could be the first tight end taken in the draft and between the 15th and 40th pick overall.

Witten consulted two other players who left early and are now playing in the pros - the Saints' Donte Stallworth, formerly of Tennessee, and the Giants' Jeremy Shockey, formerly of Miami.

He also talked it over with Vols coach Phillip Fulmer.

Witten led the Volunteers in receiving with 493 yards on 39 catches and five touchdowns in the regular season, though he had just five catches for 41 yards in Tennessee's 30-3 loss to Maryland in the Peach Bowl.

Witten, a 6-foot-5, 265-pounder from Elizabethton, began his career at Tennessee as a defensive end before being forced into the tight end position as a freshman.

He wasn't too happy with the move since tight ends at Tennessee were mainly just extra blockers, not receivers.

Witten helped change that perception. Tennessee coaches even met with the NFL's Tennessee Titans to study how they were successful in using tight end Frank Wycheck in their offense.

He had only one catch for 11 yards as a freshman but had 28 for 293 yards last season as a sophomore.

``Coach Fulmer put me in that position. It was the best decision he could have made. I was questioning the decision at the time, but it's been great ever since then,'' Witten said.

One of Witten's most memorable plays was during last year's Citrus Bowl against Michigan when he caught a pass and ran down the middle of the field for a 64-yard touchdown.

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