By Jonathan Owens, Titans Online
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On a typical fall Sunday you could find Will Witherspoon in a Titans No. 92 jersey anchoring down the Titans defense. But could you recognize him sitting in front of Congress giving his views on proper production of livestock?
In July his knowledge and business savvy approach to cattle farming landed him an opportunity to share his ideas with Congress against the consistent use of antibiotics in livestock.
Because of Witherspoon's healthful approach to farming, he was voted to Rodale's "Top 50 Sexiest Environmentalist" in Women's Health/Men's Health magazine. That nomination led Animal Welfare Approval (AWA) to request that he share his ideas with Congress.
"The Committee that listened to me speak was very receptive," Witherspoon said. "I got a lot of positive feedback, and everybody seemed interested about my techniques of cattle farming. I expect to see changes in how companies feed their livestock in the near future."
The phrase "practice what you preach" is what Witherspoon did when he started producing his own beef.
"I wanted to produce meat for myself to eat and to also help contribute to revenue my farm was making," Witherspoon said.
Witherspoon, who has a degree in agricultural engineering, chooses to feed his cattle nutritious grass and forage-based grain for protein to prevent build-up of harmful acid in cows' stomachs that can lead to acid-borne pathogen transfer. He said some people who raise livestock, however, over-use sub-therapeutic antibiotics, and he is trying to stop that practice.
The 240-pound linebacker's love for horses led Witherspoon to start in farming. He has two leisure horses named Rocky and Simon that led him to name his estate Shire Gate Farm. Witherspoon first bought land in Owensville, Mo., because he decided it would be more beneficial to own land than pay someone else to board his horses.
Since then, he has expanded his farm to 800 acres, which is now home to numerous horses, sheep, goats and cattle. As he's purchased additional tracts of land, he's also acquired the houses that were on the properties. His father decided to move to the farm and enjoys it.
"It comes in handy during the season because I am not there," Witherspoon said.
Witherspoon has also used his free time to work toward a degree through the George Washington University School of Business STAR EMBA Program and is scheduled to complete the degree in 2013.
Witherspoon's off the field accomplishments do not overshadow his performance on the football field. Playing for his fourth team since he entered the NFL in 2002, Witherspoon found himself in a leadership role with the Titans since he arrived in 2010. That season his teammates voted him the winner of the team's Ed Block Courage Award, which is given to a player on each team who demonstrates a commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.
When his football career is over, he has a lengthy list of things he wants to accomplish. His plan is for his children to one day take over Shire Gate and continue to practice the same healthy farming he has tried to uphold.