Peter Ashton arrived in Corvallis, Ore., last week to begin his transition from Grapevine Faith Christian High School to Oregon State.
Despite playing quarterback in a run-oriented offense at a small private school, Ashton signed to play quarterback for the Beavers.
He couldn't have done it without Jon Kitna.
"I owe him a lot," Ashton said from his parents' home in Keller before he left for Oregon State. "He's done so much for me."
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The Dallas Cowboys' backup quarterback has been Ashton's mentor, role model and something of a personal quarterbacks coach. It was Kitna who put Ashton on Oregon State's radar.
Kitna and Oregon State offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf played against each other in college when Kitna was at Central Washington and Langsdorf was at Linfield. Kitna also is friendly with Beavers coach Mike Riley. Kitna's cousin Casey Kjos was a receiver at Oregon State, finishing his career after the 2009 season. (Kitna and his wife Jen were Kjos' legal guardians.)
Ashton impressed Kitna the first time they met. He did the same on the practice field the first time they worked together.
"I have to be honest, I was shocked the first time I threw with him," Kitna said in a phone interview from his off-season home in Washington state. "He could make every throw. After one workout, I started calling college coaches to take a look at him."
Kitna became friendly with Ashton and his family when Kitna's children enrolled at Faith after Kitna was traded to the Cowboys from Detroit before the 2009 season.
Kitna spent a week teaching a leadership class at the school in 2009.
Ashton asked then if he could have more of Kitna's time. They went to dinner, and after that, Kitna and Jen began mentoring Ashton and his girlfriend; Kitna led Ashton and his friends in Bible studies, and he talked football with Ashton.
The more Kitna watched Ashton play last season, the more he believed in Ashton as a quarterback. In his four-year career, three as the full-time starting quarterback, Ashton passed for 3,001 yards and 44 touchdowns and rushed for 4,170 yards and 46 touchdowns. He also punted, kicked and played safety, earning TAPPS first-team all-state honors on defense as a junior and first-team all-state honors on offense as a senior.
"Peter is an all-around athlete," Faith coach Kris Hogan said. "He's good at virtually anything he does. ...He has such great kinesthetic awareness. When he tries something, he immediately gets the hang of it. He's just a natural athlete."
Ashton was born with a gift. He took his first steps at 7 months, and he was whizzing the ball past the baby sitter's head in the church nursery soon after that.
Ashton was all-district in soccer, a district champion in the 300-meter hurdles and an all-state pitcher and center fielder.
"Soccer, T-ball, whatever, he mastered them all," Anne Ashton, Peter's mother, said. "But by the time he was in the ninth grade, he knew what he wanted."
Ashton has overcome five learning disabilities, including attention deficit disorder and dyslexia, as well as impulsivity to reach his goal of becoming a college quarterback.
He did it with counseling, medication, prayer and guidance from family, coaches and teachers.
"They walked right beside him at the school," Bill Ashton, Peter's father, said. "It was almost a community effort to help him overcome and to make him successful."
Ashton learns visually, forcing him to watch a lot of film. He said he watched film three times a day during the season.
Ashton was able to run four offensive systems in four seasons.
"There are two ways Peter learns," Hogan said. "He is a good visual learner. There's no doubt about that. That's his best method of learning. It's really interesting: When you know what you want and you can demonstrate it to him, he can do it. That's why when he sees a picture of it, or he sees a film of something done correctly, he can just go out and emulate it immediately. Demonstration is better for him than an explanation of something."
Kitna, 38, sees a future NFL quarterback when he watches Ashton, who expects to redshirt this season at Oregon State.
"The thing I keep telling him is a lot of people tell Peter what he can't do and what he can't remember," Kitna said. "I tell him: 'You're not a safety. You're a quarterback is what you are. You keep playing quarterback.
"Fight the urge your freshman year to get on the field.' He is good enough to play safety or return kicks. But as a quarterback, he's pretty special. If he sticks to that, he's going to be where I am one day."