ARLINGTON, Texas — Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna estimates that a good number of NFL players are bankrupt, divorced or on drugs shortly after ending their careers because they have no other career to turn to.
He isn’t facing those prospects, because of his devout Christian beliefs and because he already has a job as head football coach and algebra teacher at Lincoln High School, his alma mater in Tacoma.
“It’s incredible. The right door opened,” Kitna said between services Sunday morning at Fielder Road Baptist Church, where he preached and gave a personal testimony.
It was his first public appearance since informing the Cowboys of his decision to retire two weeks ago.
“I am beyond excited,” Kitna said. “It was the perfect opportunity. The coach wanted to move into the athletic director’s role and called and asked me if I was interested.”
He will begin work at the start of the second semester Feb. 7.
The job is one Kitna initially applied for after going undrafted out of Central Washington in 1997.
But then he started his pro career in NFL Europe before landing with the Seattle Seahawks. He spent 16 years in the NFL with three teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals, and the last three years with the Cowboys as Tony Romo’s backup.
“I have no regrets,” Kitna said. “Sixteen years, I can’t believe it. I was trying to get one year. I played 16. It’s been a blessing. It lasted longer than I thought it would.”
Kitna always felt this would be his last season. But it ended a little faster than he planned when he suffered a back injury in practice in November.
He didn’t go on injured reserve until Dec. 15 as the Cowboys held out hope that he would improve before other injuries forced them to clear a roster spot.
“…. Like I told Jason (Garrett) when I hurt my back, ‘I’m no longer someone you can count on health-wise.’ I felt it was time.”
Kitna went home to Tacoma to be with his family even before he was put on injured reserve. He said it was tough watching the Cowboys go through an up-and-down season from afar.
But he said it was right for him and third-stringer Stephen McGee, who became the backup.
“I always felt like you were a distraction or a help,” he said. “I felt the best way for me and the best way for Stephen to grow into that role was for me to not be around, so he could grab a hold of it.
“I felt it would be selfish to stay around.”
Kitna said Cowboys fans should not give up hope and leaves as a big fan of Romo, whom he calls the “right guy for the job.”
“Tony had a phenomenal year,” Kitna said. “He had the best year since I have been here. Everybody who knows the game would say it was the best of his career, and he has had a lot of good ones.”