Catching up with: Jon Kitna

Posted Dec 11, 2012

Jon Kitna spent the first five of his 16 NFL seasons with the Seahawks, but the kid from Tacoma and Central Washington University has returned to teach math and coach football at his old high school.

What he did: Jon Kitna started 33 games in four seasons with the Seahawks (1997-2000, after spending 1996 on the practice squad) and had an 18-15 record as the starting quarterback. But the story of Jon Kitna started long before he started, or was even signed as a free agent out of Central Washington University in 1996. He caught the eye of Dennis Erickson when the then-Seahawks coach went to see his nephew, Jamie Christian, play for the Wildcats. One look became another, and then another, and then another. And that’s how the kid from Tacoma ended up playing QB for his hometown NFL team. He passed for 3,346 yards and 23 touchdowns in 1999, when the Seahawks won the AFC West title and lost to the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the playoffs. Kitna was named the team’s Man of the Year in 1999 and 2000 and was an offensive co-captain in ’99. He also was MVP of the World Bowl in 1997 while playing for the Barcelona Dragons in NFL Europe. His nickname? The Magic Dragon, of course. After leaving the Seahawks, Kitna played for the Cincinnati Bengals (2001-05), Detroit Lions (2006-08) and Dallas Cowboys (2009-11). He finished his career with almost 30,000 passing yards and 169 TD passes.

What he’s doing: Kitna, 40, is doing what he always expected his life to be – until the NFL put those plans on hold for 16 years. He is teaching math and coaching football at his alma mater, Lincoln High School in Tacoma. “It’s a dream come true to be able to impact the lives of young men,” Kitna said Sunday, before raising the 12th Man flag at the Seahawks game against the Cardinals. “And it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. Transitioning out of the NFL life is hard. But I really enjoy what I’m doing and I enjoy just the young men and their willingness to be coached and to be shaped and to be molded.” Kitna and his wife of 18 years, Jen, live in Lakewood have four children – Jordan, 15, a ninth-grader; Jada, 14, an eighth-grader; Jalen, 9, a fourth-grader; and Jamison, 6, a first-grader.

As for raising the 12th Man flag, Kitna smiled and offered, “This is whole new experience. I’ve never even seen it happen. I’ve heard people talk about it. The way the community and the whole state have gotten behind the Seahawks and the whole culture of the 12th Man, I’m really looking forward to experiencing it and in future years getting season tickets and bringing (Jordan) to games and being part of the 12th Man.”

Quick hits

If I could have dinner with anyone – living or dead – it would be: “Tiger Woods, after we played 36 holes of golf at Chambers Bay.”

Must-see TV: “As a family, we love ‘Survivor.’ We’ve watched it since these guys (his oldest kids) were 2- years old. But right now, we’ve really started to watch ‘The Amazing Race.’ But must-see TV is NFL football.”

The best book I’ve ever read: “I’ll take the Bible out of it, and I’ll say ‘The Best is Yet to Come’ by Tony Evans.”

You don’t say

My best memory as a Seahawk: “I still remember the first time I ran on the field in a preseason game against the Falcons (in 1996). Going to the playoffs was cool that year (1999). But that Raiders game, my first start (in 1997), I loved it. I loved getting to play with Joey Galloway and those guys.”

Something most people don’t know about me: “I’m a pretty open book. But how about this? I’m a really good bowler.”

If I could relive one day in my life: “For our 10-year anniversary, we renewed our vows, but I did it as a surprise. Jen didn’t know anything about it. So that would be the day.”