Witten to compete on “Dancing with the Tri-Cities Stars”

Published 6:02 pm Wednesday, June 8, 2016

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The Rider/Witten family has done it all on the football field and has been to the highest level of the game, but music and dance is a whole other story.

Now, the current Elizabethton High School foot- ball coach and older brother of Dallas Cowboy leg- endary tight end Jason Witten is breaking the trend to become a ballroom dancer.

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The former EHS great who went on to start as a wide receiver for Virginia Tech during the glory years of Hokie football finds himself busy coaching the Cyclones these days, but this past spring he has been practicing to be a contestant in “Dancing with the Tri-Cities Stars,” which takes place on Saturday, June 11 at the Meadowview Convention Center in Kingsport.

The Rider/Witten family really is Elizabethton’s most famous football family. Shawn’s grandfather, Dave Rider, was the head coach at Eliza- bethton for over two decades and his son, Scott Rider, also played at Vir- ginia Tech. Then the grandkids came along and all of them were football stars. It was all about football.

Music, now, that’s a different story. None of the family played in the marching band, and none of them played in a rock band, sang in a choir and they definitely didn’t take any dance lessons.

This all changed a few months ago when a sponsor of the Jason Witten Football Camp in Gray, Jeff Jones, asked Shawn to take part in the dancing competition.

Three months later, Witten is now a ballroom dancer and he is ready to tackle the stage on Saturday night.

“You never know what you are going to sign up for,” said Witten. “I told Jeff I would love to do it. It didn’t really hit me until the last couple of weeks that I am going to be in ‘Dancing with the Tri-Cities Stars’.

“The Rider/Witten family has no musical talent,” Witten added. “I am totally out of my comfort zone. It has been a lot of fun. This goes to benefit Steppenstone Youth Treatment Services, so it goes to a great cause.”

Past Carter County locals who have been on the show include Steve and Ashley Grindstaff and for-mer Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes.

Of course this program is a spin-off from the long running ABC television show “Dancing with the Stars”. Before March, Shawn admitted that he very seldom watched the program.

Since Witten knew he was going to be in this show, he has been hooked and has won a ton of respect for the dancers who are in the show.

Football players on “Dancing with the Stars” are common and this season Doug Flutie and An- tonio Brown were contestants. Past contestants in- clude Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Hines Ward.

Witten respects what these dancers do and he now knows just how difficult it is.

“I was glued to the show this season,” said Witten. “It’s pretty hard to learn all these different moves in two weeks.”

There are 10 contestants, five men and five women. The professional dancers involved include Mike and Kim Alder, with the men dancing with Kim and the women dancing with Mike.

Each contestant will get two dances about a minute and a half each.

“They are great to work with as far as practice sched- ules and working around your schedule,” said Witten. “We started 12 weeks ago. Little by little, it has been coming to- gether.”

Of course, Witten is a devoted husband and father, but some women may not like to see their husbands dancing with another woman. However, Witten’s wife, Katie, has been by his side through this whole process.

“Katie has been a great support through this,” said Shawn. “This has been fun and it has been a different experience from what I am accustomed to. It has been awe- some.”

As much as Witten would love to win, most of all he just wants to perform well.

“I’ve just realized in the last couple of weeks I am go- ing to be performing,” said Witten. “I don’t want to screw it up.”

After this coming weekend, Witten’s world will go back to helmets and pads. However, Witten has found deep admiration for what professional dancers and contestants who go on the real “Dancing With the Stars” actually do.

“I have a new respect for the people on that show and for professional dancers,” said Witten. “Kim and Mike are great teachers. It has been awesome.”

Tickets can be purchased by calling Meadowview at 423- 292-2919 or by going online at www.dancingwiththetricities- stars.com.