In 1997 I started working in ticket sales for the Seattle Seahawks. It was my dream job (at the time) and everything about it was pretty much awesome. One of the coolest coincidences was the Seahawks acquisition of Jon Kitna from Tacoma's Lincoln High School. Jon had starred at baseball and football at Lincoln then went on to a great career at Central Washington University. If not for a chance meeting with Coach Dennis Erickson, whose son was also a student at CWU, that would have been the end of it and Jon would have gone on to a teaching career with some football coaching on the side.
That wasn't the end of it though. Coach "E" saw Jon play and decided he needed a "shot" at the NFL. He had an NFL body and the mind of a mathematician. That combination is rare, so a chance he got. First the practice squad, then the NFL Europe where he ripped it up for the Barcelona Dragons. From there, Jon made the active Seahawks roster and actually started quite a few games while battling Hall of Famer (and Husky Legend) Warren Moon for playing time.
One of my favorite things about working for the Seahawks was the fun interaction I experienced with Jon. I was sales guy and he was a practice squad player turned NFL starter….That didn't matter though. We were both kids from Tacoma walking through NFL halls and absolutely loving it. There were more than a few times when we talked about the old neighborhood and how cool it was to represent our home town together. Jon knew that he could have been making ticket sales calls like the other former college athletes that were in my department. He was living the dream…And I was happy to be witnessing it first hand.
Then came Mike Holmgren and the fit for Jon wasn't right. Jon signed with Cincinnati and went on to play with Detroit and Dallas….15 years in the NFL! While playing pro football Jon never lost sight of his first dream….Teaching math and coaching high school football. Last year, when his career finally came to end, Jon immediately jumped into the "dream" career he always wanted. A month into his "retirement" Jon started teaching and coaching at his alma mater, Lincoln High School.
It really is a story worthy of front page news. He doesn't have to be there. He doesn't need to be there. He's chosen to be there with intent to make a true difference. It's great when pro athletes make appearances at schools and hospitals to lift spirits and sign autographs. What Jon is doing at Lincoln is amazing, inspiring, and absolutely fantastic. It's more than an appearance, it's immersion in the community. To him, it's what seems right.
There have been nice articles written locally but this national one I've linked below really tells the story well. There is a lot more to be written about Jon's journey but the start is something pretty legendary already. Coach Kitna is doing things right. Stay tuned…