After winning the NAIA National Championship in college, Jon Kitna wasn’t drafted. In fact, the All-American quarterback thought his playing career was over. He finished his teaching degree and planned on coaching high school football until Seattle Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson, who arrived at Central Washington University to scout another player, saw the 6-foot-2 quarterback slinging passes.
Kitna signed as an undrafted free agent with Seattle in 1996. Over the next 15 years, he started 124 NFL games, threw for almost 30,000 yards, backed up Warren Moon, won 2003 NFL Comeback Player of the Year while grooming No. 1 pick Carson Palmer for the Cincinnati Bengals, gave the Detroit Lions two 4,000-yard seasons, and served as Tony Romo’s confidant with the Dallas Cowboys.
As of the 2020 academic year, the former NFL quarterback was the head coach at Burleson High School, about 20 minutes south of Fort Worth, Texas. He’d previously coached winning teams at his alma mater, Lincoln High School, as well as a few other prep schools before joining the Cowboys as quarterbacks coach for 2019.
Kitna’s a natural leader. After all, grooming the next generation of QBs is easy when you’re the MVP of World Bowl V. (Damn I miss NFL Europe. Frankfurt Galaxy, forever.) But his leadership and expertise wasn’t being used solely on other kids. Kitna ran his own quarterback room at home.
2021 QB Jalen Kitna’s Recruitment
Burleson High School quarterback Jalen Kitna’s had quite the journey. As a sophomore, Kitna threw for 1,474 yards and 16 touchdowns for Brophy College Prep in Phoenix, Arizona, where his father was head coach. The next year, Jalen followed dad back to Texas, briefly committed to Boston College, and played his junior season at Frisco Reedy HS.
The Kitna clan was on the move again as dad landed another job. Standing 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Jalen Kitna led his dad’s team one last time as a three-star recruit and the No. 31 pro-style quarterback in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite.
Despite offers from Arizona, Boston College, Cornell, Georgia Tech, Oregon State, Tennessee, and Yale, as well as interest rising nationally, Kitna announced on Twitter he’d be committing to the University of Florida Gators and head coach Dan Mullen.
Jalen Kitna Florida Gators
Entering his senior season, a “dead period” of recruiting took effect amidst the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 virus. That limited Kitna to only taking a virtual trip to Gainesville, according to 247Sports, but that small dose was enough to woo him into a Gainesville commitment.
Kitna became the second QB commit to Florida football’s 2021 recruiting class, joining four-star quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson (Loganville, GA). When Kyle Trask left after a tremendous 2020 campaign, that gave way to an open competition for the starting signal caller job between Emory Jones, Anthony Richardson, Del Rio and Kitna.
Kitna has progressed through spring practices since arriving on campus and looks almost identical to Kyle Trask while in pads. He measured in at 6-foot-5 and 198 pounds. He’ll need to put on some weight if he wants to take hits in the SEC.
Wearing No. 11 in practices like the quarterback who just almost won the Heisman Trophy in Gainesville, Kitna has already made impressive throws despite being a freshman. Even if he ends up sitting a couple years behind Emory Jones, he has the frame that NFL scouts likely salivate over.
Jalen won’t be the only Kitna kid in college football, either.
Jordan Kitna was an all-state quarterback in Texas who joined the TCU Horned Frogs as a freshman. After redshirting, he transferred to Cisco College before joining the Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves; He guided them to an 11-2 record and 2019 NCAA Division II Playoffs appearance in his first year as the starting passer.
Kitna is synonymous with quarterback. The tutelage Jalen Kitna’s getting is second-to-none, and the Florida Gators appear to have a legitimate future starting QB on their hands. By the time his NCAA career is up, he could win a Heisman himself and will probably have teams like Alabama and Clemson kicking themselves for not offering him.
This article was originally published on May 27, 2020 but has been updated since Kitna arrived on campus.