DALLAS — A former Seattle Seahawks quarterback recently signed by the Dallas Cowboys will donate all of his NFL paycheck to a Tacoma-area high school, NFL.com reported. Jon Kitna, 41, is a math teacher at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. He was recently signed as a third-string quarterback to the Dallas Cowboys, who acquired him when news that quarterback Tony Romo hurt his back and was possibly out for Sunday night’s NFC East game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Kitna told reporters he would donate his entire $53,000 paycheck earned in the one-game signing to the high school, where he also serves as football coach. He is slated to return to teach at the school on Jan. 2 when the school comes back from winter break.
We hear a lot these days about spoiled, pampered professional athletes who go through life with an attitude of entitlement and clueless self-superiority. There are certainly no lack of those types of athletes, but what we don’t often hear about are those who realize that they’ve been blessed to play a kid’s game and decide to give something back. Some athletes create their own foundations, some volunteer quietly in their communities, and some donate large sums of their earnings to causes that are close to their heart.
Jon Kitna’s story is as refreshing as it is heart-warming. Kitna grew up in Tacoma and played his football (without a scholarship) at that (not so) noted football factory, Central Washington University, an NAIA school. Thinking that his football career was over after he used up his eligibility at CWU, he got his math degree and began applying for high school coaching jobs. To his surprise, the Seattle Seahawks thought enough of his talent to draft him in 1996, and over the course of a 15-year NFL career he played for four teams. Kitna called it a career in 2011 after backing up Tony Romo with the Dallas Cowboys. At 39, long past the time most NFL quarterbacks pack it in, he’d had a solid if unspectacular career. Not bad for a kid from Tacoma who never even had a football scholarship in college.
His playing career finished, Kitna came home to Tacoma, got a job coaching football and teaching math at Lincoln H.S., and moved on with his life. The NFL also moved on, and Kitna became a minor footnote in the league’s history. Then Tony Romo got hurt against Washington on Sunday, and suddenly the Cowboys were looking for a replacement who knew their offense. Just like that, 41-year-old Jon Kitna was once again an NFL quarterback, if only for a short time and on an emergency basis.
This story would be unusual but not of any particular interest except for what Kitna’s decided to do with the financial windfall he’ll realize from another go-round in the NFL. He’s donating his game check to his employer, Tacoma’s Lincoln High School. Barring the Cowboys making a run deep into the playoffs, Kitna should be back in his classroom on January 2nd when students return from Christmas Break. I suspect he’ll have some interesting stories to tell his students…and that $53,000 game check will do some good at Lincoln, which, like virtually every other public school, is no doubt always scrambling for money.
My hat’s off to Kitna, who could have done so many things with his NFL paycheck (which is more than his teacher’s salary), but decided the unexpected windfall could be put to better use by his school. I suppose that’s what you do when you realize how blessed you are to play a kid’s game and get paid handsomely for it.
Sometimes, doing the right thing really IS as simple as doing a very good thing.