By Mark Moring
It takes more than great athletic ability to play quarterback in
It also takes a good grip on the intangibles qualities such
as coolness under pressure, a keen understanding of the nuances of
the game and what coaches like to call "vision," a capacity
to see and feel and intuitively know everything thats happening
on the field.
Jon Kitna, Seattle Seahawks quarterback, has that kind of vision.
He can spot a barely open receiver down the field. He can feel a defensive
end bearing down on his blind side. He can often, as a result of conscientiously
studying films of opponents, predict what a defense might do in a
He sees it all as a professional. He saw it all in college, too,
as an All-American at Central Washington University. Well, almost
all. For a long time, Kitna missed the obvious, the very thing that
stood right before his eyes, trying to get his attention in every
Kitna was too busy pursuing everything else football, girls
and parties to notice. So God gave him a few blatant wake-up
First, Kitna and a few friends got caught shoplifting at a local
grocery store. They had enough money to buy the stuff, but they stole
just for the thrill of it. Nevertheless, an arrest and a $500 fine
werent enough to get Kitnas attention.
Then, he ran off the road while driving drunk, nearly plowing into
a telephone pole at 40 miles per hour. But even that brush with death
didnt get his attention.
"I was definitely making some bad decisions," Kitna says.
Finally, during his junior year in college, Kitna got the wake-up
call he needed. After a heated argument with his longtime girlfriend,
Jennifer, Kitna dropped a bomb: "I dont know whats
going to happen between you and me," he told Jennifer, "but
I need to find Christ."
The statement didnt exactly come out of nowhere. One of Kitnas
former teammates at Central Washington, Eric Boles, had gone on to
the National Football League and become a Christian. During an off-season
visit with some old friends at Central including Kitna
Boles shared his newfound faith.
And Kitna took note.
"After Eric got saved, he was a totally different person,"
Kitna says. "He had stopped doing all the things he used to do
before he was a Christian. He was a changed man."
Still, Kitna wasnt ready to take the leap of faith himself,
at least not until he feared Jennifer might walk out and never come
"God used that incident to say, Youre about to lose
the best thing thats ever happened to you, " Kitna
says now. "Thats when I looked at Jen and said, Man,
I need to make a change. "
Now that God had his attention, Kitna figured he would start cleaning
up his act and then turn to Jesus. He shared his "plan"
"I told him I was going to quit cussing and drinking and stealing
and womanizing, and then I was going to get saved," Kitna says.
"And Eric was like, No, no, no. You dont need to
do all that. You can get saved right now. God wants you right where
youre at. Then Hell make the changes. "
Boles suggested a simple prayer of salvation. Kitna said he would
think about it.
A couple of weeks later, Boles asked Kitna if he had prayed to receive
Christ as his Savior. Kitna said no. "Man," said Boles,
"you really need to say that prayer."
"That night," Kitna says, "I was sitting on my bed,
all alone in my apartment. And I just felt guilty. It was all over
me. I thought, Here I am, the starting quarterback, with a great girlfriend,
and all these things I should be happy about.
"But I wasnt happy. I had no peace. I felt a burden. Thats
when I got down on my knees and started praying. I believed who Christ
was and that He died for my sins, and I wanted to accept Him as my
Lord and Savior."
Then things really started happening. Kitna got a copy of My Utmost
for His Highest, the devotional book by Oswald Chambers, and he
started thirsting for Gods Word. Boles started a Bible study
on campus, and Kitna began attending. So did Jennifer. Two months
later, she became a Christian. Soon after that, they were convicted
about their relationship. So they committed themselves to abstinence
until their wedding day. In August 1994, 10 months after Jon had become
a Christian and 8 months after Jennifer had made the same decision,
Today, the Kitnas live in the Seattle suburbs with their two children,
3-year-old son Jordan and 2-year-old daughter Jada.
And today, Kitna sees things more clearly than ever. He only wishes
he had seen the obvious sooner, but hes grateful that God kept
pounding on his door.
"While I was yet a sinner, while I was not acknowledging Him
at all, God still protected me," Kitna says. "I just had
to reach the end of my rope before I turned to Him."
Early in the 2000 football season Kitna lost his position as the
Seahawks starting quarterback after struggling through the first month
of the season.
The demotion to second-string was difficult, but Kitna keeps it in
perspective. "I have security in Christ," he says. "All
I have to do is worry about pleasing Christ and playing to an audience
of one. Im not playing for the approval of man. Im playing
for the approval of Christ."
Mark Moring is managing editor of Campus
Life, a Christian magazine for high school students. He lives
in Elburn, Ill.