DALLAS — Jason Witten shows up at the Salvation Army every year to serve an early Thanksgiving lunch. On Tuesday, he brought his buddy with him.
Quarterback Tony Romo was one of the 12 Cowboys veterans who worked the food line and brought plates out to the clients at the Salvation Army’s Collins Social Services Center in Dallas. It’s part of the kickoff to the team’s annual Thanksgiving holiday drive for the charity.
In Fort Worth, another group of players and cheerleaders served a Thanksgiving lunch to Salvation Army residents there.
Romo doesn’t make a lot of public appearances, so it was a treat for the lunchtime crowd and the hosts. The Salvation Army staffer who introduced him — a Cowboys fan since she was 10 years old despite growing up in Washington, D.C. — couldn’t resist calling him over and saying, to cheers, "This is the first time I’ve met Tony Romo. I’m standing by Tony Romo!"
Witten got a grin out of it.
"He does a good job of seeing those fans, and obviously, they have words of encouragement or, sometimes, advice — for all of us, and especially the quarterback," Witten said, drawing a laugh.
Parenthood, said Witten, has affected Romo’s outlook.
"Being a father himself and a family guy, it does provide a perspective," he said. "It’s unbelievable how good his motives are. He just wants to spend time with them and stay away from all the other stuff. That’s what it’s all about, to come here and get the impact, more than anything else."
Romo stayed in the kitchen for the most part, but he took charge there, too. He put Miles Austin on dressing, put himself on rolls.
"He was on the rolls, but you know what? It was a little hot back there," Witten said. "He did provide some entertainment for the staff. Those are stories those people will be able to tell for a long time, getting to work with Tony in the back. He didn’t quite have it mastered like they did."
Other players who participated included DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray, Phillip Tanner, Kyle Orton, Robert Calloway, Derrick Dockery, Eric Frampton, Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr.
Murray, who has missed four games with a sprained foot, said it lifted his spirits to do his part.
"Getting away from everything that deals with football, enjoying life, giving back, being around people who really don’t see football, it was nice to come out here and give," he said.
Sherby Nixon shows rookie Cowboys linebacker Kyle Wilber, left, and running back Lance Dunbar how to prepare a thanksgiving lunch plate.
Related: Dallas Cowboys get, give good vibes at annual Salvation Army meal
DALLAS – The Cowboys have a couple of Thanksgiving traditions: Playing football on Turkey Day and serving meals to the less fortunate earlier in the month.
Tuesday was the day for the latter tradition.
The Cowboys manned two Salvation Army locations, with the rookies serving meals in Fort Worth and a group of veterans serving meals in Dallas.
“Every time you do it, you’re in the middle of the season and the grind and coming here provides a little perspective,” said Jason Witten, who has been part of the event in each of his 10 seasons. “You’re on somewhat of a platform. You have to say, hey, I’m going to give back to some of the people that look up to you. That’s what being a role model is all about, providing perspective and hopefully encourage them in some way.”
It’s not just about serving meals. The Cowboys sign autographs and interact with people who generally need some good vibes.
“It’s good just to come out here and just give back,” running back DeMarco Murray said. “You always have a soft place in your heart for them. Growing up, you always tried to pray for them and do the right things by them, no matter if it’s bringing them over for a meal, just saying hi or talking to them. Doing anything you can possibly do to make them feel better is what counts.”
Added outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware: “You’ve got to count your blessings. Being a role model for the Dallas Cowboys and having some positivity come into the Salvation Army always feels good.”