Zach Ertz tweets touching tribute to Jason Witten: 'That's who I want to be like when I grow up!'

For 15 years, Jason Witten was one of the most dependable athletes in any sport. He only missed one game — an absence that came in his rookie season — and caught at least 60 passes every single year after his debut campaign. Widely respected around the league for his impact both on and off the field, Witten is also a triumphant story of one who overcame childhood abuse to become one of the best tight ends in the history of the league. He was the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award winner in 2012. The recently retired 36-year-old has inspired countless youngsters hoping to follow his path to NFL stardom. Among those inspired was Eagles standout Zach Ertz.

The 27-year-old fellow tight end tweeted out his appreciation for Witten on Saturday night.

That’s Ertz holding up what appears to be a game-worn Jason Witten jersey and posting the following message:

First off I want to say congratulations to someone that had a profound impact on my career, by just being the man he is! At 17 years old when I was trying to figure out what a tight end meant and what they embodied I started following the tight end for the Cowboys. Everything he did, on the field and off, I tried to emulate. I studied him so much, if it was 3rd & 7, I know what play was coming and I knew how he would attack the defender on the Y-Option. It’s remarkable the impact athletes can have on our society just by carrying themselves the right way, respecting others and pursuing excellence. So from now on when you look up the definition of Tight End, it should be a picture of this jersey and nothing else. Thank you Witt for being you and being someone a 17-year-old kid from California could say, “That’s who I want to be like when I grow up!” And like you always say THE SECRET’S IN THE DIRT!

It’s a touching tribute from Witten’s former division rival. Ertz has a long way to go to achieve the individual heights that Witten, who is fourth on the all-time catches list, went to 11 Pro Bowls and was twice an NFL All-Pro, did. But Ertz, who made his first Pro Bowl in 2017 and won a Super Bowl in February, seems to be well on his way to having a very successful career thanks to years and years of studying his idol.

Related: See Witten through his career: 

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Jason Witten's career
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten watches play during the 2005 Pro Bowl game at Aloha Stadium, Honolulu February 13, 2005. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) grabs a pass in front of two New York Giants defenders late in the fourth quarter. The play helped set up the game-winning field goal. The Cowboys defeated the Giants, 23-20, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford New Jersey, Sunday, December 3, 2006. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
Jason Witten (82) of the Dallas Cowboys runs after a catch during the Dallas Cowboys 21-14 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. (Photo by James D. Smith/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 4: Tight end Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys runs with the ball after losing his helmet during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field November 4, 2007 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Cowboys won 38-17. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips congratulates tight end Jason Witten (82), following a 28-27 win against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, Sunday, December 9, 2007. (Photo by Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 11: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys runs in motion during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on October 11, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Cowboys defeated the Chiefs 26-20. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
10 October 2010: Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten #82 pushes off Tennessee Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon #92 in the shadows during the Tennessee Titans 34-27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Ray Carlin/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)
HONOLULU - JANUARY 30: Jason Witten, #82 of the Dallas Cowboys, smiles during the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on January 30, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 26: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on September 26, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 01: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys in action against the New York Giants on January 1, 2012 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the Cowboys 31-14. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jason Witten of the Cowboys warms up before the Chicago Bears play the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Monday, October 1, 2012. (Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 01: NFL Player Jason Witten attends the 2013 Super Bowl Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans on February 1, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys and Danny Trevathan #59 of the Denver Broncos at AT&T Stadium on October 6, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 24: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys listens as quarterback Tony Romo discusses the play in the huddle in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 24, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Dallas Cowboys defeated the New York Giants 24-21. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 23: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys watches pregame workouts before a preseason game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on August 23, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 28: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against Rafael Bush #25 of the New Orleans Saints and Kenny Vaccaro #32 of the New Orleans Saints in the second half at AT&T Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 21: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys participates in pre-game warmups prior to a game against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on September 21, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
21 DEC 2014: Dallas Cowboys Tight End Jason Witten (82) [3533] during an NFL regular season game between the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Ray Carlin/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 29: Lucky Whitehead #13 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys after scoring a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in the second quarter on August 29, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 19: Recording artist Hunter Hayes (L) and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten speak during the 50th Academy of Country Music Awards at AT&T Stadium on April 19, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for dcp)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
25 October 2015: Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) warms up during practice before the NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants played at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 30: Dallas Cowboys Head Coach hugs Tight End Jason Witten (82) after he scores the winning touchdown in overtime of the NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys on October 30, 2016, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Dallas defeats Philadelphia 29-23 in overtime. (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) scores on a pass from Dez Bryant (88) in the third quarter as the Cowboys take on the Detroit Lions Monday, Dec. 26, 2016 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 03: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys poses for a photo with fans prior to the NFL Hall of Fame preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 3, 2017 in Canton, Ohio. Dallas won 20-18. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 17: Tight end Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys on the field before a game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 17, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 30: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys smiles during warm-ups before the football game against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium on November 30, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 17: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on during the game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 17, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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