Former Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna has always been with purpose. A strong man of conviction that many looked up to. During his first season with the Bengals, rookie quarterback Carson Palmer was mentored by Kitna, having his best seasons when the Bengals were on the upswing. Players gravitated to him because he was always with purpose.
A wonderful story written by Yahoo! Sports' Les Carpenter followed Kitna at Lincoln High School, where the former NFL quarterback is not only teaching Algebra now (as well as a high school coach), he's teaching the toughest kids at the high school he attended when he was younger.
And so again he told the principals to have the other math teachers select the students they didn’t want – the ones who didn’t listen, who didn’t try, who didn’t care. He would take them all. The principals nodded. Lists were made, class rolls prepared. The new football coach was handed three dream teams of troublemakers. They wished him luck.
Only something happened in those three algebra classes, something no one could have imagined. The students who didn’t listen suddenly did. Those who never did work turned in assignments. And when the results of the math assessments came in, Kitna’s students were second best in the school. It wasn’t because their teacher was an NFL quarterback. Many of them didn’t have televisions at home. They had little idea who Jon Kitna was. No, this was something else. Something bigger. Something one of those two principals, Pat Erwin, considers in his office one recent day and finally calls: "The Kitna effect."
Many of the kids, Carpenter writes, are from broken homes where Kitna has installed a sense of caring in these kids. Not only that he and his former teammates are donating money to improve the facilities for the football team.
To show his seriousness, Kitna spent $150,000 to fill the weight room with equipment as nice as that in any NFL practice facility. He had the walls painted and named it after his old Lincoln teammate and longtime NFL safety Lawyer Milloy. Soon others followed. Carson Palmer, a teammate in Cincinnati, bought two industrial washers for uniforms. Current Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo provided the money for new jerseys. Calvin Johnson, his old receiver in Detroit paid for new equipment as did Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Since the kids didn’t have their own spikes for practice, the Cowboys boxed up dozens of cleats. When Nike took over the NFL uniform contract in the spring, the Seahawks sold their now useless game pants to Lincoln at $1 a pair so the team could have practice uniforms.
There are plenty of stories of former and current players doing their part, donating their money and/or time to make as signficiant an impact as they can. Jon Kitna isn't just doing that, he's now living it, embracing it. He has purpose.
It's a good story and worth the read.