Thanksgiving and the Dallas Cowboys have gone hand-in-hand since 1966 when the club became the second team to host a Turkey Day home game alongside the Detroit Lions. The Cowboys have used their platform as "America's Team" to help the Salvation Army in serving those in need for an early Thanksgiving meal for years. Being 2-7 didn't stop the Cowboys this year, and the questions that surround their seven-game losing streak didn't detract from folks' excitement in seeing the home team.
"It's encouraging to see positive feedback, because sometimes that's not what you expect and when you've lost seven in a row and you're 2-7 to have that support," said tight end Jason Witten. "But I think more than anything today, just being able to be out here, I think it provides perspective for us to be able to give back. And somebody like me who is fortunate enough to have kids who can come be a part of it. Great opportunity to teach them to be a part of it."
For Witten, the event is a family affair with his wife and sons helping serve Salvation Army Clients at the Carr P. Collins Social Service Center in Dallas.
"It's a great opportunity," Witten said. "I think, as any parent would say, teaching your kids to be able to give instead of receive. It's not always easy to get that message across. And for mine to be able to come with my teammates and great organization and come out here and let them receive the same thing, see me do it, and them join me, it's a great opportunity. I think it will be something they'll always remember and I think they'll definitely appreciate the opportunity to do that."
Witten's close friend on the team, quarterback Tony Romo, who also brought his family to help the Salvation Army, echoed the sentiments of his favorite passing target.
"I think it's always important when you have kids," said Romo, who plans to be back at work this week as Dallas' starting QB after recovering from his broken collarbone. "You want to make sure that they understand life and how not everyone is in the same position that they're in. And at the same time everyone has their own blessings and things that we're lucky enough to have and be fortunate enough to be in certain situations. And you just want them to know that it's bigger than themselves and be humble and have good hearts."
The level of service Romo and Witten have displayed, especially in getting their families involved, is an inspiration to younger offensive players like second-year receiver Devin Street.
"I've done various things in this nature, and I think there's always a goal in mind to give back getting to this level," said Street. "I've done trips to Haiti and it's always been my M.O. You see guys like Witten and Romo always giving back as well. Just following them."
The adulation, the autograph-signing, the cheers, and the warm reception from the Salvation Army clients doesn't make any of the players forget the seven-game losing streak, but it does help put their lives in perspective.
"This is very touching situation to me," safety J.J. Wilcox said. "I love to give back to the community. As I say, Dallas supports us so much in so many ways that it means so much to give back to them."
"What it does is it's a reminder of what God is capable of doing and inspiring those that are less fortunate," said fullback Tyler Clutts. "It really is a great thing to be part of to just give people a great meal that Albertsons has provided and just brighten their day a little bit. And as players, it's just a little bit, sometimes it goes a long way."
Defensive tackle Nick Hayden loves putting smiles on people's faces as much as he does putting opposing quarterbacks and ball-carriers on the ground. Helping out the Salvation Army is one of his favorite events surrounding Thanksgiving.
"This time of year, we're lucky to really just understand the blessing we have and we're in a position to hopefully put some smiles on people's faces and feed some people," Hayden said. "Salvation Army and the Jones family have done an amazing job partnering and making it special for the people in this area who can use some help. So, it's a great day for everyone to get together and smile and have some food."