Like the four other Waxahachie Indians’ athletes next to him, Jordan Kitna sat waiting to sign his future away and take a step into the unknown. Unlike three of the four, his future is cloudier and headed back to a place he hasn’t seen in years.
Jordan shifted slightly and uncomfortably in a metal folding chair during Wednesday’s National Signing Day at Lumpkins Stadium and, for a moment, uneasiness passed across his usually calm demeanor as his eyes locked with his father and head coach Jon Kitna.
It could have been his position in the chair, but it could also have been because Jordan, unlike fellow seniors Randon Haynes, Fredre McFadden, Devan Brady and Ezekiel “Zeke” Derrough, won’t have a battle for a spot on the nation’s third best team.
By deciding to walk on to Michigan State University, he decided to bet on himself.
“My dream is to play football at the highest level,” said Jordan. “When I visited the campus, I loved coach (Mark) Dantonio and coach (Brad) Salem – the quarterbacks coach. I felt I could really be at home there and grow in my faith, not only in football, but spiritually as well.”
“We let him make the decision for himself,” Jon added. “He had scholarship opportunities. He researched Michigan State and decided it’s the place for him and somewhere he can challenge himself. He believes he’s fallen through the cracks and is a late-bloomer. Fortunately for him, he’s done really well academically and getting academic scholarships won’t be a big issue for him.”
Despite receiving interest from smaller National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I schools like Washington State University and the University of Connecticut and University of Washington, Jordan hedged his challenges on intangibles, physical ability and an uncanny feel for the game.
At 6 feet and 205 pounds, Jordan’s size isn’t going to shock or awe anyone. He isn’t the biggest quarterback in his recruiting class and he’s not the fastest.
Those variables belong to 6-foot, 6-inch and 217-pound Lake Stevens High School (Washington) product Jacob Eason and Saline High School (Michigan) 4.4-second 40-yard dash speedster Joshua Jackson, who signed with the University of Georgia and Virginia Tech University, respectively.
Jordan not only knew the downfalls recruiters would gig him on, he accepted them wholeheartedly with a fire that didn’t translate well to stat sheets and profile logs.
“I’m 6-foot. I’m not the 6’3”, 6’4” quarterback that recruiters are looking for,” Jordan stated in a Bleacher Report article in April. “Usually, that doesn’t matter if you have speed, but I’m not the fastest guy in the world, either. I’m more of a gamer type of guy, not really a great tester. In the game, something just clicks. I’ll do anything to win. I’m a competitive guy. I’m not afraid to take the game in my hands or take the blame if we lose.”
According to the ESPN top 300, Yahoo Sports Rivals and 247Sports prep composite, websites dedicated to cataloging the best high school talent in the country, Jordan falls somewhere in between the nation’s 104th best dual-threat quarterback and the unranked.
What Jordan has can’t exactly be measured on the by sprints or tape measures, but it may remind someone of a quarterback getting ready to
enter his fifth Superbowl.
“There aren’t many pass concepts or things defenses can put in front of him that’s going to make him say, ‘Man, I’ve never seen that before,’” Jon said. “He’s been exposed to a lot. He understands coverages of defenses, protections, blitzes and the nuances of NFL offenses. He’s been exposed to an NFL-style offense for four years.
“That’s not something that’s going to be sexy at the college level. They have the run-option and quarterbacks aren’t trained to know route progression. The skills Jordan has are far more valuable at the professional level.”
Most teams, but not all. MSU, where Jordan will find himself in a quarterback battle with incumbent senior Connor Cook bolting for the NFL, fields a team that calls for its signal callers to find their place under center.
The team also has one of the toughest offensive lines in college football, was a game away from reaching its first national title in 49 years and has four unproven freshmen and sophomore quarterbacks on its roster.
Time and opportunity, it seems, are on the side of one of the best quarterbacks in the state.
For Jordan, his family and those that support him, education weighed as heavily on the decision to make the more than 1,000-mile journey to East Lansing, Michigan after graduation on Jun. 3.
Jon said when his son saw he had the option to take scholarships and play or go to a university and possibly never play, he had to take a hard look at his long-term future.
“I asked myself what I would do if he was I freshman or sophomore playing well for some other school and I blow my knee out and never play again, or do I go to Michigan State and I never play?” Jordan said. “What school do I want to be at academically?”
With a signature as pretty as his back shoulder throw to Jalen Reagor during the Battle of 287, Jordan signed his National Letter of Intent, a wry smile painted across his face.
Why was he so confident and so grounded in his faith in both himself and his love for the future in the often unpredictable poker-like game of college football?
Because he’s betting on himself.