LIBERTY TWP. — Lakota East High School is expected to name former longtime NFL quarterback Jon Kitna as its new head football coach on Wednesday afternoon. The school declined comment until the introductory press conference next week.
Kitna succeeds former Lakota East coach Rick Haynes, who stepped down Feb. 1 after coaching the Thunderhawks for 13 seasons.
Lakota East (3-7, 3-6 Greater Miami Conference in 2022) is scheduled to open the 2023 season at Centerville on Aug. 18 before the home opener against Hamilton on Aug. 25.
Kitna, 50, played in the NFL from 1997 to 2011 with Seattle, Cincinnati, Detroit and Dallas. He said returning to Liberty Township, where he lived from 2001 to 2005, is a full circle moment with a strong family and friends connection in Ohio.
Kitna was the Bengals starting quarterback for three seasons during his time in Cincinnati from 2001 to 2005. He earned the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2003 and mentored quarterback Carson Palmer, a No. 1 overall selection of the Bengals in the 2003 NFL Draft. The two quarterbacks have remained friends to this day.
Since his retirement from the NFL in 2011, Kitna has extensive coaching experience at the high school and professional levels. He is proud of the connections he’s made with student-athletes over the years and said the possibilities for success are endless at Lakota East.
Kitna said he wants the experience to be fun for the team while wanting the Thunderhawks to be an elite squad in the state.
“I’m kid-oriented,” Kitna told WCPO.com “These young men have a four-year window to play high school football and to be in high school athletics. The only thing we ask of them is to give us everything you have all the time. That’s it.”
Lakota East will utilize a pro-style offense with multiple formations that fit best with the personnel. 2025 quarterback JT Kitna, Jon Kitna’s youngest son, has scholarship offers that include Houston, Duke, Texas Tech, North Texas, Baylor, University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of Texas at San Antonio. Michigan has also expressed significant interest, too.
“He loves the game of football,” Jon Kitna said. “It’s fun to coach him. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who can run and throw it.”
Jon Kitna said he plans to implement an aggressive defensive style that runs to the football. Kitna also emphasized the importance of special teams throughout a game. Kitna said he is considering options with how the coaching staff will be formed and that will be completed at the appropriate time.
Prior to Burleson, Kitna served as the Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach in 2019 when he mentored Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott. The Cowboys star threw for 4,902 yards — second in the NFL — and 30 touchdowns in 2019.
Kitna has also coached high school football in Phoenix, Ariz., (2018) along with Waxahachie, Texas (2015-2017) and his alma mater Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington (2012-2014).
Kitna led quite a turnaround at Lincoln where he helped to improve a team grade-point average from a 1.4 to a 3.2 in its academic report. Kitna helped 100% of the senior football players graduate and had 35 student-athletes in the National Honor Society during his third year at the school.
Kitna had a 25-7 record in three seasons at Lincoln, winning back-to-back league titles as he led the team to the quarterfinals of the Washington state playoffs.
In 2015, Kitna was named the Waxahachie High School head coach, a 5A program located south of Dallas. Kitna led the program to a 20-13 record in three seasons after the team went a combined 5-15 in the two years prior to his arrival.
After the 2017 season, Kitna accepted an offer to serve as the Brophy Preparatory School head football coach in Phoenix where he led the team to the postseason and a 7-4 record. Kitna was also instrumental in helping the student-athletes raise their team GPA from 2.1 to 2.98 in two years.
After the 2018 season, Kitna accepted a position to become the offensive coordinator under former NFL head coach Mike Martz for the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football. Before the games started that season, Kitna accepted the Dallas quarterbacks coaching position.
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