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Jon Kitna is putting down his chalk and picking up a clipboard this week.
The 41-year-old has been retired from the NFL for two years, spending his days teaching math and coaching high school football.
But after getting a call from the Dallas Cowboys this week, he’ll help America’s team take on the Philadelphia Eagles with a playoff berth on the line. And he’ll do it all for free, as he’s promised to donate his $53,000 game check to the high school where he works.
Can Kitna still play football at a high level? That question still begs to be answered, and it might not have to be if either Tony Romo or Kyle Orton can stay on the field for the duration of the Cowboys’ season finale.
Kitna will be the Cowboys’ third-string quarterback after his signing became officialon Dec. 24, per the Cowboys’ official website.
On Monday afternoon, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that Romo would be out for the rest of the season due to a back injury:
Meanwhile, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has vehemently denied the report and says Romo might still be cleared to play, according to USA Today:
Regardless of whether Romo or Orton starts, Kitna signing with the Cowboys proves that he is not only still capable of being a backup in the NFL—Dallas chose him after working out David Carr, Tyler Thigpen, John Skelton and Richard Bartel, per the team website—but that he’s also a noble individual.
The $53,000 he will be paid for his third-string duties will not go in his pocket, as he announced Thursday that he plans to donate the money to Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., according to the The Dallas Morning News‘ Barry Horn.
Kitna has been a football coach and math teacher at Lincoln since retiring from the NFL two years ago following a 15-year playing career. After leading the Abes to an 8-2 record—with his son, Jordan, as his starting quarterback—the father of four is donating his new salary to improve the school.
The former NFL quarterback also graduated from Lincoln, as this CBS report explains:
While the salary might not seem like much to a professional athlete, Genny Carter, a teacher and librarian, pointed out that the $53,000 Kitna will earn in potentially only one week with the team is more than teachers earn for an entire year:
Kitna may no longer be the same NFL prospect he was when the Seattle Seahawkssigned him as a 25-year-old in 1996 out of the University of Central Washington. He may not even be the same guy who won four games for the Cowboys back in 2010, but he has certainly proven that he has grown as a man over his time in the league.
According to a Dallas Morning News report, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Kitna has stayed in shape throwing against his high school team’s defense.
He said he would run scout team for the high school team and give them a really good look like he gave us great looks when he was here. So he’s a very active guy. He’s a mentally tough guy. … And he’s certainly very young at heart. So it was good to have him back, good to have him back in the meetings, and [I’m] excited to see him practice today.
The former Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions and Cowboys quarterback has played 15 seasons, won 50 games and thrown for 169 touchdowns. Even if he never sees game action as an NFL quarterback again, Kitna has shown that there is still nobility in professional sports.