KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - As Jason Witten prepared to cut a blue ribbon in celebration of the new Dooley-Witten Learning Center on Thursday afternoon, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley made a light-hearted observation.
“We couldn’t get a little orange on the ribbon?” Dooley joked.
Regardless of the color or shade of the ribbon, one thing Dooley, the former Vol standout tight end and everyone else in attendance could agree on was the importance of investing in brighter futures for the children at the Halls/Powell Boys & Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley.
As part of his ongoing work with Variety – The Children’s Charity of East Tennessee, Dooley teamed up with Witten and his SCORE Foundation to help fund the renovation and development of the newly-christened Dooley-Witten Learning Center, which was dedicated Thursday.
“There are people that create problems, there are people that talk about problems and there are people that solve problems,” Dooley said before the ribbon-cutting. “The Boys & Girls Club has been a problem solver ever since its inception. I’ve always felt like if everybody just put their energy on their local communities to solve the problems together, then we wouldn’t have as many problems as we have all over the world.
“We have so much right here locally that we can do. That’s where we have put our energy on trying to help solve problems at a local level. I’ve always felt like there’s no greater resource in this country than our young people because they are the future problem solvers.”
Those future problem solvers have all been dealt different hands in life, but as Dooley said, each has the power to play their cards in any way.
Witten, the former Vol star who’s entering his 10th NFL season with the Dallas Cowboys, laid down a royal flush.
Once a member of the Boys & Girls Club as a child growing up in East Tennessee, Witten transformed into one of the greatest tight ends in Tennessee and NFL history. After earning consensus All-SEC honors as a Vol in 2002, Witten has been selected to seven NFL Pro Bowls, five All-Pro teams and ranks third all-time in the NFL in receptions by a tight end with 696.
“I’m a living example of being a part of the club and having good examples in front of me every day,” Witten said. “Amongst the challenges that took place in my own life, people believed in me and they showed me a way to allow me to have a chance.”
Witten used that chance to turn his dreams into reality, something he made certain that every kid in attendance realized.
“That’s the goal for this,” Witten said. “The vision is to empower these young kids, give them a chance to learn, educate them and encourage them in every phase of their life so that they can one day achieve their dreams.”