Cowboy In the classroom: Kitna returns from stint in the NFL

TACOMA, Wash. -- Students at Lincoln High school in Tacoma call Jon Kitna coach.

In the first day back teaching since his one-game return to the NFL, students too young to remember his 16-year career now see their football coach and teacher in a whole new light.

The Dallas Cowboys' coach called on Kitna in an emergency after starting Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo suffered a herniated disc.

"I texted them and said, 'Hey, if you feel like I can help get through a week or 4 or 5 weeks, I'd love to come in and do that.' It's hard to learn NFL system in a year, let alone a week," Kitna said.

Kitna said he wasn't frightened to return to the field Sunday after two years of retirement, but admits he was nervous.

"Cause there's a lot of responsibility," he said. "When you look at your wrist and you have 180 plays on it, you're responsible for all of those."

Not to mention his age. The average NFL player's age is about 25, and 41 is considered ancient.

"What made me feel old is the fact that my son dropped me off at the airport to fly down there," said Kitna.

Kitna said he wasn't disappointed that he never actually played.

"For me to play means somebody else got hurt and I would never hope that on anybody," he said.

Kitna teaches weight training at his alma mater. Last year he taught algebra, but he has been too busy doing speaking engagements around the country this year to keep a math class.

He and his wife purchased the $150,000 worth of equipment in his school's weight room before he even took the teaching job. The purchase replaced the outdated machines that were considered old when Kitna attended Lincoln.

He says it's necessary to build the football program and says the kids can take pride in the setting.

Lincoln High is about to benefit from the Kitnas again. Kitna hasn't received his game day paycheck yet, which is about $55,000, but when he does, it's going to Lincoln High.

"It's not something I intended to get attention, it's a private conversation I was having. But it's just what we've always done. My wife and I have the same mission in life to try to use the resources God's given us to help others that are less fortunate," he said.

Students will also benefit from some life lessons Kitna plans to pass along. When he contacted Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and offered to help, his word was good.

Kitna didn't even tryout to get his one-game NFL contract. He said it meant a lot to him that Garrett took his word.

"If your word doesn't mean anything, you have nothing," he said.

When the former Cowboy hits the classroom he wants his kids to know they should "Live a life of character, live a life of integrity. Be somebody that people can count on and then you'll always have a place in this world."