|Lions QB Jon Kitna fills life with faith, family and football|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 21 November 2007 13:23|
The Detroit Lions quarterback had one person grabbing his neck, another across his shoulders and someone clinging to his legs.
Luckily for Kitna, three of his four young children were piling on him this time and not a 300-pound defensive tackle.
Kitna had been sacked an NFL-high 40 times entering Thursday's game against Green Bay, and that doesn't count the playful hits he takes when his kids treat him like playground equipment in the basement of his mansion.
``The truth comes out about his back,'' quipped backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who recently was a guest because Jennifer Kitna cooked up her signature dish of bow-tie pasta with spicy sausage. ``He didn't get hurt playing football.''
The 35-year-old Kitna also isn't defined by football.
Perhaps as much as any athlete, Kitna wears his faith on his sleeve - and head.
He has worn baseball caps emblazoned with a cross since 1996, when he signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent. Several years ago, while playing in Cincinnati, he started ordering 500 at a time to give away.
Kitna gathers his teammates for a prayer circle after every practice and game, and about a dozen of them come over each week with their wives and girlfriends for Bible study.
``We didn't want to have a house this big,'' Kitna said during a recent interview with The Associated Press inside his 8,000-plus-square-foot home. ``But we felt like God told us to buy it because we have 40 people under this roof at any given time because there are a lot more believers here than there were when I played for the Bengals.''
Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer said Kitna brought teammates closer by sharing his faith.
to give you a one-sided answer. He's going to give you the truth.
``Aside from religious stuff, he's just fun to be around. He's knowledgeable about sports, about books, actors, whatever.''
Perhaps surprisingly, Kitna's brick house at the end of a cul-de-sac is not overflowing with religious symbols. A ``This is God's House'' does hang in the kitchen, though, as does a framed Kitna Family Mission Statement.
After eating chicken nuggets and grapes, the four kids went to play in the basement and listened to a wide array of music, including a song by the 1990s rap group Cypress Hill, while their parents cleaned up and put leftovers in a container for Orlovsky the bachelor to take home.
Even though Kitna is a self-described ``Bible-thumper,'' the subtle signs of his religious beliefs inside his home match up with how he acts around his teammates.
``He's not a prophetizer with his words,'' Lions president Matt Millen said Tuesday. ``Jon offers his life as his testimony. I think he does that because he's been there. The reformed are usually the best examples because they understand.''
Kitna acknowledges he was not always so pious.
He had the occasional drink at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., but it was at Central Washington University that Kitna said his partying got out of hand and he was very drunk four nights a week.
He hit rock bottom in October 1993 when his girlfriend, who now is his wife, caught him cheating on her.
``Being young and in love, it was a big blow,'' Jennifer Kitna said, sitting next to her husband on a living-room couch. ``We stayed up late that night and talked. I could tell he was genuinely remorseful because he punched the wall with his throwing hand.''
Kitna said he was saved a few months later, dedicating his life to Jesus and helping those interested in their spirituality.
Roy Williams said Kitna changed his life several weeks ago.
``He asked me, `What's holding you back from walking with God?''' the Pro Bowl wide receiver recalled. ``It's like an SAT question. I said, `I don't know,' and I changed the subject. Then, I started thinking about it and said, `What is holding me back?'''
Williams, who participates in prayer circles with Kitna but not the Bible studies, said he since has examined his life in a way he hadn't in the past. He tries not to curse anymore or chase women. Williams, who has a child out of wedlock, now wants to get married and start a family. He attributes his new life goals to the guy who throws him the ball.
``That comes from talking to him, watching him and looking at his family,'' Williams said.
Not everybody in the locker room buys into Kitna's message.
Guard Ed Mulitalo does not get down on a knee to pray after practice, but he respects and admires the way Kitna lives his life and the tolerance he shows with those who don't participate in his faith-related functions.
``He doesn't hold any judgments,'' Mulitalo said. ``If you don't get involved, he doesn't hold it against you.''
Alex Lewis, who goes to Kitna's house weekly with his wife, understands why religion is a tricky topic in the workplace and society.
``It should make you feel uncomfortable,'' the linebacker said. ``People like to be comfortable, and truly questioning yourself in terms of how you live your life and what you believe in is not easy.
``It's just too bad stuff like this doesn't get discussed more instead of what Michael Vick or Pacman Jones are doing with their lives.''
AP Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.