December 27, 2013

Kitna’s charity payday puts food on Tacoma’s table

The Cowboys’ backup quarterback Sunday teaches in an inner-city school and will contibute his pay to feed students.

The fundraising was a little slow this year for a high school in Tacoma, Wash.

The T-shirt sales were OK. A car show brought out a crowd.

But nothing worked quite as well as the fundraiser this weekend:

“Send Your Coach To Play For the Cowboys.”

Two years after his final play in a pro football career that began in the last century, Lincoln High School math teacher and coach Jon Kitna returns Sunday to suit up at quarterback for the injury-plagued Dallas Cowboys.

Kitna will donate his $53,000 day’s paycheck to Lincoln’s football booster club, in part to help feed his undersized and undernourished players.

Just call this a nationally televised version of a charity dunking booth.

Kitna will take practice snaps — and full-contact hits if needed — to raise money for players’ needs at 100-year-old Lincoln, Tacoma’s poorest high school and the “Home of the Abes.”

In Kitna’s second year as head coach, the Lincoln Abes won eight games and lost two. With their season over, Kitna offered to come fill in at backup behind Kyle Orton, starting for injured Tony Romo.

Kitna has played backup quarterback for the Cowboys before. In 2010, he filled in for Romo and passed for more than 2,000 yards.

But he was 38 then. Now, he’s 41.

He made $3 million his last year with the Cowboys. But he’s teaching to help the kids at his old high school, constant underdogs in Tacoma.

Our cousin newspaper there, The News Tribune, described Lincoln in an editorial as “gritty” and a “rich blend of ethnicities from around the world,” serving mostly students from low-income, single-parent families or recent immigrants.

Kitna is there, he was quoted, because “It’s not really about money. … This is about what I see in Tacoma and Pierce County, and how my little life can have some impact here.”

It’s where Kitna always expected to be. According to The News Tribune, he was planning to start a career as a math teacher and coach in 1996 when he unexpectedly landed a pro football tryout.

He wound up staying in pro football 15 seasons.

Make it 16.

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