Joe Dineen Jr., named a semifinalist for Jason Witten Man of the Year Award
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas senior linebacker Joe Dineen Jr., was tabbed one of 20 semifinalists for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award Thursday. Dineen, who currently leads the FBS in solo tackles ranks at the top of the Big 12 Conference in total tackles and is KU’s all-time leader in tackles-for-loss, stands out for the Jayhawks both on and off the field as he is also a leader in the Lawrence community.
The award, presented by Albertsons and Tom Thumb, is the first college football honor to focus primarily on a player’s leadership, both on and off the field. Leadership is a term synonymous with Jason Witten, who, in addition to becoming one of the best tight ends in the history of the sport and the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver, served as one of football’s most prominent role models during his 15-year pro career. In addition to winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2012, Witten also received the Bart Starr Award, Pro Football Weekly’s Humanitarian of the Year Award, Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP and the Bob Lilly Award, among many others. All of those honors have recognized his work in the community, achievements on the field and dedication to his teammates and family. Three finalists will be named for the award on Monday, December 10. The winner will be announced at the award ceremony on February 12, 2018, at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
“I am honored to announce this impressive group as the semifinalists for the second annual Collegiate Man of the Year,” said Witten. “All of these student-athletes are shining examples of what makes college athletics so great. These 20 men have demonstrated exceptional character and leadership, often while overcoming large challenges. They are great representatives for the game of football, and I commend all nominees for getting to this point.”
A two-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honoree in 2018, Dineen has collected 119 tackles, 10.0 TFLs, 3.0 sacks, two fumble recoveries, an interception and three quarterback hurries. One of the top linebackers in the country, Dineen is a three-time Lott IMPACT Trophy Award Player of the Week nominee, picking up the honors following Kansas’ win over Central Michigan. In addition, he was named a mid-season First Team All-American by Sports Illustrated.
As stellar as his play is on the field, Dineen might do his best work off of it as he dedicates many of his hours away from football to the Lawrence community. Dineen has been very active in numerous community service initiatives, including KU Football’s elementary school reading program, children’s football clinics, Special Olympics football clinics and feeding the homeless with JustFood, but he really found his passion raising funds and awareness for childhood cancer research. As the Jayhawks lost a child to the disease who was dear to the program in Cole Hayden, Dineen got very involved organizing visits to Children’s Mercy Hospital for the football players, along with a group of players shaving their heads in his (Cole Hayden’s) honor. Additionally, he took part in decorating Hayden’s house for Christmas and also organized a group of football players helping with a 5K run in Hayden’s honor. Dineen then organized a “Cole’s Christmas in July” event at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, where he and his teammates delivered gifts to all of the children in the cancer wing of the hospital in honor of Hayden. In addition to his work with childhood cancer, Dineen has also served on the leadership team for KU’s partnership with Team IMPACT, a nonprofit that pairs kids with special needs with their local sports teams,
On top of Dineen’s service to the community, he has been a leader in the KU program throughout his time on the team. Dineen is one of just three players in Kansas’ 128 years of football to be voted a team captain three times. He has been named a team captain in each of the last three seasons and has also been selected to represent the Jayhawks at Big 12 Media Days in each of those same three seasons. While earning his bachelor’s degree in management and leadership with an entrepreneurship concentration in May 2018, Dineen picked up numerous academic honors along the way. He is a two-time Academic All-Big 12 Second Team honoree, an Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team member and he also earned Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll and KU Athletics Director’s Honor Roll four times during his KU career.
The winner of the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year will also receive a $10,000 contribution in his name to his school’s athletic scholarship fund. The contribution will be made by Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation, the official charity of Jason and his wife Michelle. The SCORE Foundation, founded in 2007, has positively impacted tens of thousands of children and families in Texas and Tennessee over the last 10 years. The foundation operates its nationally-recognized SCOREkeepers program, which places trained male mentors on staff to work with children at family violence shelters, at nine shelters in the two states. SCORE has also operated a weekend food backpack program for disadvantaged children in North Texas, opened Jason Witten Learning Centers in five different Boys & Girls Clubs and opened the Jason and Michelle Witten Emergency Waiting Room at the Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City, Tenn.
Dineen and the Jayhawks are set to travel to No. 6/6 Oklahoma for a 6:30 p.m., contest on Saturday, Nov. 17. The game will be broadcast live on FOX.