By Brady Henderson
Jon Kitna overcame long odds to enjoy a long career in the NFL, one that is ending 16 years after it began.
While procedural issues kept Kitna, 39, from formally announcing that he’s retiring, the Tacoma native and former Seahawks quarterback made it fairly clear to “Brock and Salk” on Friday that this past season is going to be his last in the NFL.
“Nothing’s official yet,” Kitna said before mentioning a report that he is retiring. “But it’s looking like it’s heading in that direction. I’m sure there will be an announcement soon.”
After winning a Division II national championship at Central Washington, Kitna signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 1996. He led the Barcelona Dragons to a World Bowl championship in 1997 and joined the Seahawks later that year, officially beginning his NFL career.
“I think my career epitomizes the scripture that says God chose the foolish things to shame the wise and the weak things that shame the strong, and that certainly was me,” Kitna said.
“No scholarships, not one scholarship offer coming out of high school, going to a small college and coming out of a small college where there had been one other guy that had had any time in the NFL, and then Dennis Erickson kind of sees me and likes what he sees and decides to spend the time developing me. And then just having the chance to sit behind a guy like John Friesz and then Warren Moon for a couple years and just learn, learn the way to be a pro, learn the way to play the game.
“It really is just an amazing story as I look back on it and an amazing ride. It’s been a ton of fun.”
Kitna has thrown for 29,745 yards, 169 touchdowns and 165 interceptions while playing with the Seahawks (1997-2000), Bengals (2001-05), Lions (2006-08) and Cowboys (2009-2011).
In 1999, Kitna led the Seahawks to an AFC West title and their first postseason appearance in more than a decade. He was the NFL’s comeback player of the year in 2003. He spent the last three seasons backing up Tony Romo in Dallas and played well in relief when Romo went down with a collarbone injury in 2010, throwing 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing 65.7 percent of his passes in 10 games.
“Football was great, but as you get to the end of your career you kind of realize that it’s more than just football,” he said. “It’s relationships that you form and things like that. So I consider myself awfully, awfully blessed to have played 16 years in this league.”
Life after the NFL will still include football. Kitna plans to coach high school football in Tacoma, where he attended Lincoln High School.
“There’s a lot of things that, for me, I’m excited about doing after football, and that would be teaching and coaching and pouring into the lives of inner-city kids here in Tacoma,” he said. “So I’m definitely looking forward to that. … I’m really excited about the next phase of life for me and my family.”