Lincoln High School quarterback Jordan Kitna was up early Saturday morning. His body was sore. Still annoyed, his mind raced back to the miserable showing from the previous night.
The Abes were able to hang on for a 21-16 victory over city rival Wilson. Kitna completed six of his 24 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted twice.
As the son of former NFL quarterback turned high school coach Jon Kitna, the teenager knew film review would be a two-bowls-of-cereal affair in the Kitna household.
Certain game sequences were reviewed over and over. The coach calmly asked for pointed responses to his questions.
“He brings up points, and then we talk about it,” Jordan Kitna said. “Overall, I realized it just wasn’t me – and that, man, I need to play better, and work better.”
Keep in mind, sophomore Jordan Kitna is just eight games into his career as the starting varsity quarterback. More often than not, he has displayed uncanny poise and precision, and not troublesome signs of making the same mistake over and over.
Heading into Lincoln’s regular-season finale Friday night against Foss, he has passed for 1,655 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
“Jordan has been great,” Jon Kitna said. “What has really shocked me since Week 1 has been his ability to not look at the pass rush and keep his eyes down the field. That’s hard when it’s your first time and the bullets are live – especially if you get hit a few times.”
Oh, that. Jordan Kitna has seen all of that up close, from the time he could walk into whatever NFL stadium where his father was starting at quarterback, including 33 games for the Seattle Seahawks from 1997-2000.
As a boy, he can recall the times he ran up and down the sideline at Cincinnati Bengals’ practices, watching his father study a game plan, or later mentor No. 1 overall draft pick Carson Palmer for the starting gig.
“I probably got along with Carson the best because he was so close to my dad,” Jordan Kitna said. “And he would always listen to me talk and stuff.”
And he remembers the times after NFL games when his father could barely get out of bed the next morning, too beat up to walk. It was why he often got the same bit of sage advice from his in-house idol: Take up golf.
Jordan Kitna thought he would be a wide receiver. But something about watching his father, or another NFL quarterback such as Peyton Manning, take control of a play at the line of scrimmage, was appealing.
“Growing up, Jordan didn’t ask a lot of questions. He was just around it,” said Jon Kitna, who was the starting quarterback at Lincoln and Central Washington before his 15-year NFL career. “And what I’ve noticed is that he has picked up a lot just being around it. He does things that I don’t talk to him about, doing stuff that is pretty eye-opening.”
Other lessons have been learned the hard way.
Just days before the start of last season, Jordan Kitna lost his West Central District eligibility hearing after transferring from another school district before his ninth-grade season. The ruling meant he had to sit out an entire school season of varsity athletics at Lincoln, participating in junior-varsity football instead .
“At the time, I was pretty mad about it, or disappointed,” he said. “Then I realized after the season it might have been a blessing because I probably would have gotten seriously injured against those bigger guys.”
A year of JV served him well. He got into the weight room for the first time and added 30 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot frame (he’s up to 185 pounds). And in JV games, he was able to not only hone his skills in his father’s offense, he was also able to experiment with some of its nuances.
A skill he’s developed is recognizing where defensive pressure is going to come from, and how to adjust pre-snap protection schemes at the line of scrimmage. That is something Jon Kitna admits he was not mature enough to do at that age.
“He’s gotten a lot of leash,” Jon Kitna said, “and he is running with it.”