For just the third time in CWU history, the number of a former Wildcat standout student-athlete has been retired from competition. Jon Kitna, who wore No. 3, led Central to the 1995 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national football championship. His jersey was officially retired during the 2014 CWU Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday night (May 17).
When introducing Kitna, CWU Athletic Director Dennis Francois called him “a man of intense personal integrity.”
“He was a player who competed with fierce pride, while still conveying class, dignity, and grace,” Francois added. “And what a great reflection those traits are on him, his family, his faith, Wildcat athletics, and Central Washington University.”
Kitna, who was inducted into the CWU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006, was quick to share the credit, saying, “I had some great people around me, and I’m a product of that.” He went on to thank his coaches for “training me and growing with me as I became a man.”
As a Wildcat, Kitna threw for 12,353 yards and 99 touchdowns. During his senior season, he recorded a then school-record 4,616 yards and 42 touchdowns. Those were numbers that seemed unlikely when Kitna arrived at Central.
“I was the twelfth-string quarterback when I showed up my freshman year,” Kitna recalled. “I remember that because the other 11 quarterbacks got footballs and I didn’t. Fortunately, I had some seniors that were on the football team at that time that kept me from quitting football, because [being] a twelfth-string quarterback didn’t seem like that was a great prospect for me.”
Kitna moved up the depth chart quickly and went on to become a four-year starter. He was a three-time All-Columbia Football Association Mount Rainier League selection and was named a first-team NAIA All-American as a senior.
“When I became the quarterback at Central Washington University in 1992, I had great talent around me,” Kitna added. “I was on a phenomenal football team. Back then, I thought I was the reason. What I realize is, having played for so many seasons and now coaching, it’s about the guys that are around you.”
Kitna also had an outstanding career in the National Football League. The Seattle Seahawks signed him as a free agent and he spent one season with Barcelona, Spain leading the Dragons to the NFL Europe World Bowl Championship. He was named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Kitna played professionally for 16 seasons with the Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, and Dallas Cowboys, throwing for 29,745 yards and 169 touchdowns.
Kitna received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education at CWU. A native of Tacoma, he is now a math teacher at his alma mater, Lincoln High School, where he also is the school’s head football coach.
The retirement of Kitna’s jersey followed only those of former Major League Baseball standouts Dave Heaverlo and Bill North. All three of the retired jerseys are displayed in Nicholson Pavilion on CWU’s Ellensburg campus.