July 17, 1997 in Sports

Back In The Real World Ex-Cwu Star Takes His Shot

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Jon Kitna has conquered the world.

OK, he conquered the World League. On and off the field, it would appear.

“I learned very little Spanish,” said Kitna, who quarterbacked Barcelona to the World Bowl title a month ago. “As far as Spanish goes, the more I used it, the more they tried to use it back to me. So I didn’t use it much.”

Obviously his learning wasn’t confined to the field, though he achieved there, too. He was the World Bowl MVP, tossing for 401 yards in the Dragons’ 38-24 win over the Rhein Fire.

All of which added to his resume and candidacy to become the Seahawks’ third-string quarterback. Might not sound like much to you, but it’s a job in the NFL. And that wasn’t an odds-on proposition when he graduated from NAIA Central Washington University, thankfully with Seattle coach Dennis Erickson’s cousin as a teammate.

“Coach Erickson set up a workout for his cousin and I as a favor and everything worked out,” said Kitna, who was on Seattle’s practice squad last season. His other-Worldly performance this summer didn’t go unnoticed back home.

“What we wanted to do is get him the experience to give him a chance to earn that position,” offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said following the Hawks’ opening practice of training camp on Wednesday. “He helped himself immensely, but nothing’s settled yet.”

Starting quarterback John Friesz noticed improvements in Kitna before the first practice.

“The thing that impressed me was in Tuesday’s meetings how much he recalled and how much he improved mentally from last year,” Friesz said. “He didn’t leave our playbook and let it gather dust.”

The Hawks’ and Dragons’ playbooks have similar pages, Kitna said. “We were in a one-back sets over there, a lot of three-receivers and four-receivers sets.”

The Hawks allocated three players overseas. Kitna was joined by Eric Unverzagt and James Logan, linebackers for the Scottish Claymores.

Unverzagt never had an opportunity to tackle Kitna.

“I wouldn’t have taken any (shots) anyway. I don’t know if it would have affected me over here,” he said. “The next thing you know, Seattle calls up and I’m out of a job.”

For Unverzagt, just playing was enough to offset the rainy Glasgow weather.

“I played two plays at linebacker (for Seattle last season). I was inactive for eight games,” said the second-year pro out of the University of Wisconsin. “Basically I hadn’t played since the East-West Shrine Game in January.

“I know there are things I need to improve on, but it got me in the flow of a game again, just to feel tired again and be out there for 12-15 plays straight.”

Kitna, too, benefitted from the extra time, as his 2,448 yards and 22 touchdowns in nine games attest. His goal in training camp is to beat out veteran Gino Torretta and rookie Jim Arellanes.

On Wednesday, Kitna was mostly a spectator. Friesz and Warren Moon took the majority of the snaps when the offense and defense quasi-scrimmaged.

“Obviously the World League isn’t the NFL, so I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but it definitely gave me a head start on this year,” said Kitna, a product of Lincoln High in Tacoma.

“I’ve got to come out and be confident, take in those things John and Warren are saying. But at the same time, I’ve got to go out and throw the ball like I can and know when I let the ball go that I’ve made the right decision.

“The first week is going to tell a lot about who is going to get the third spot. The biggest thing is to come out and fire on all cylinders.”

In other words, continue what he started on foreign soil.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Rides to camp Spokane Transit Authority is offering bus trips to and from Eastern Washington University for the duration of the Seattle Seahawks’ training camp. Fans can ride the “Seahawk Flyer” - (bus No. 24, Cheney/EWU) for 75 cents each way. The bus will make 24 trips daily, 12 on Saturdays and six on Sundays. Up to three children age 5 and under ride free when accompanied by a fare-paying adult. For more information, call 328-7433.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Rides to camp Spokane Transit Authority is offering bus trips to and from Eastern Washington University for the duration of the Seattle Seahawks’ training camp. Fans can ride the “Seahawk Flyer” - (bus No. 24, Cheney/EWU) for 75 cents each way. The bus will make 24 trips daily, 12 on Saturdays and six on Sundays. Up to three children age 5 and under ride free when accompanied by a fare-paying adult. For more information, call 328-7433.


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