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Nowitzki, Witten praise Michael Young

"I learned real quick what a true pro Michael was," Jason Witten said of Saturday honoree Young. AP Photo/LM Otero

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's become a tradition of sorts lately: A Dallas-Fort Worth sports star is honored and other top athletes from the city attend to show their support.

That was the case again Saturday night as Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki and Cowboys tight end Jason Witten were on hand for a ceremony honoring Michael Young's career prior to the Texas Rangers-Toronto Blue Jays game.

"Michael made baseball into something in this town," Nowitzki said. "They weren’t very good when I got here and he stuck with the team and kept playing hard and showing up every night, played his heart out no matter what the standings were. What I appreciated most about him was how he handled himself on and off the field. I can relate to that.

"It was never really about him, even in successful years. It was always about the team. It wasn't about, ‘How do I get in the headlines off the field?’ It was leaving it all out on the field. That’s what I appreciate the most about him. We’ve been friends for years and keep in touch."

Nowitzki, who just returned from vacation, received a loud ovation when he was introduced prior to the event. He congratulated Young after it was over and took pictures with two of Young's sons -- Mateo and Emilio.

Witten, another longtime Dallas athlete, said he loved watching Young play the game.

"I came in '03 and I learned real quick what a true pro Michael was," Witten said. "I think anybody that’s been around him, you know how great he was. It was somebody I looked up to and admired, not just how he played on the field, but how he acted off. I wanted to show my gratitude and respect by being here tonight."

The last time there was similar sports royalty on hand for a big ceremony was the retirement of Mike Modano's No. 9 in March. Nowitzki and Young were both at that event, congratulating Modano just before the No. 9 was raised to the American Airlines Center rafters. Modano couldn't attend Saturday, but left Young a video message that was played on the big screen at Globe Life Park.

"I think it’s very special," Young, 37, said of how area athletes support each other. "I don’t think you see that in many other towns. We all know each other, we keep in touch, we all pull for each other and hit each other up after good games. It’s a special bond and I’m very happy to be a part of it. A lot of these guys, we spend a massive chunk of our careers in the same town playing in front of the same fans. That’s pretty special."

Young was honored with a proclamation from the city of Arlington (making May 17 Michael Young Day), the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation donated $10,000 to the Michael Young Family Foundation, and Young received a four-day trip to Walt Disney World courtesy of his former teammates.

A handful of those former teammates, managers and even those who played against Young for years presented video tributes, including Mark DeRosa, Derek Jeter, Cliff Lee, Don Mattingly, Mike Napoli, Mark Teixeira and David Murphy.