Christ Turns Kitna’s Life, Detroit Lions around
This interview was from 11/23/2007:
The Detroit Lions have a lot to shout about these days. They have a winning record after six losing seasons. Players say a key part of that turnaround on and off the field is number eight — Quarterback Jon Kitna.
“My mission is to do whatever I can to be obedient to Christ and further His Gospel; tell people about the things He’s done in my life and the things He can do in their life,” Kitna said.
Kitna’s faith in Jesus Christ made national headlines early in the season. It was September 16. The Lions were in a battle with the Minnesota Vikings.
Kitna suffered a concussion after taking hits from behind and from the side.”I ended up staying in the game for a couple of plays, threw a touchdown, all that,” Kitna reflected. “Didn’t remember any of it. Hadn’t remembered that we played the week before in Oakland. Basically, I was totally out of it on my feet.”
Detroit Lions Chaplain Dave Wilson recalls the game. “I was on that sideline,” Wilson said. “I mean he was out of it. It was just weird. He didn’t know who I was. He didn’t know who people were, and then at halftime, I talked to him, and it just started. Cognizance was coming back.”
“Into the third quarter, there were no lingering effects at all, and I’ve had concussions before where not only can you. I’m sitting on the sideline, thinking, ‘Hey, I’m not going to be able to play this game,’ but when will I be able to play again because concussions can linger,” Kitna said. “Sometimes you don’t get back in there for two, three weeks.”
Kitna not only went back in that same game, but also, helped lead the Lions to a 20 to 17 win in overtime — in one case — making a 15-yard run off a deflected pass to pick up a key first down. Kitna says no question — he was miraculously healed by God.
“To me, a miracle is when I can’t explain something, and there is no explanation.” Kitna said. “The doctors can’t explain it. I can’t explain it. Nobody can explain it, and you cannot convince me that God wasn’t at work there for whatever reason. I don’t know why he did it. I don’t know why that happened, but all I know is I was out of it and then ended up being totally cognizant with no issues, no symptoms whatsoever.”
When it comes to being a born-again Christian, Kitna’s teammates say he walks the talk, and that’s making a difference.
“Guys know that anything about Kitna is nothing fake,” said Defensive Tackle Cory Redding. “It’s all real.”
“When your quarterback is a leader, and then not only is he a leader, when he’s a strong Christian leader, then he’s the focal point with his boldness for a lot of the spiritual things that are happening,” said Kicker Jason Hanson.
Spiritual things, like team Bible studies. Kitna holds a weekly Bible study at his home and attends a weekly study led by the chaplain.
“It’s not just Jon,” said Wilson. “There are a lot of guys here, but Jon is the leader, who’s taken a stand for Christ, and is leading, and guys are following him, and I think it’s primarily ’cause they see it’s real. It’s the real deal. Christ is real in his life.”
“When you have a guy like that that comes in this locker room, obviously, people look up to him differently, especially guys who are new to Christ or searching for Christ,” Wide Receiver Mike Furrey said.
Kitna has Galatians 2:20 posted on his locker, which reads, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live. Christ lives in me.” He calls it his life verse.
“The way I try to live my life is a dead man walking,” Kitna said. “It means that I don’t matter anymore, and you try to live that way. And then when you understand that in God’s eyes, you are His. He owns you. You do whatever He wants, then it’s a lot easier to live your life with freedom when you understand that God is calling the shots.”
For a time, Kitna says he, himself, called the shots, and this quarterback’s life was a mess.
“I was basically an alcoholic, a womanizer, cheating my way through school, stealing,” said Kitna. “It was at that time I had a girlfriend for about a year and a half, and she caught me with another girl in bed, and it was that night, I was like, ‘man, I need to make a change in my life.”
A friend who played for the New York Jets shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with Kitna.
“Two weeks later, I prayed the prayer of faith all by myself in my room, and immediately things changed,” Kitna said.
When asked what he wanted his legacy with the NFL to be, Kitna said, “Just a man that, number one, loved Jesus Christ and was unwavering in his love for Jesus Christ. And secondly, a guy who loved playing this game; that showed you that you can put Christ first, your family second, and football third and still be successful.”
Success in life. Jon Kitna knows the Source of that, and he’s not ashamed to let the world know, leading others to victory as well.