Backup quarterback Jalen Kitna makes strong debut with Florida Gators football

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

Florida football quarterback Jalen Kitna was summoned earlier than expected on Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Starting quarterback Anthony Richardson was off to a hot start before tweaking his ankle mid-way through the second quarter. 

In came Kitna, who on his first pass attempt of his college career fired a 22-yard strike to Ricky Pearsall for a catch near the sidelines down to the EWU 22. Kitna then hit running back Nay'Quan Wright out of the backfield for a 14-yard pass down to EWU 4, setting up a 4-yard TD run from Wright that put the Gators up 21-3.

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Jalen Kitna is son of NFL quarterback Jon Kitna

Eastern Washington Eagles linebacker Elijah Rodriguez (52) gets a hand on Gators quarterback Jalen Kitna (11) in the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022.

“It felt good," Kitna said. "Obviously, being in there and being prepared for my team, I got a job to do and I got out there. It felt like it feels in practice, so not too hard. We have a game plan and that’s exactly what we saw so, we prepared for it all week. I just went out there and did my job.”

Richardson returned to finish off the half and played into the third quarter. But Kitna re-entered the game late in the third quarter and made the most of remaining snaps, completing 8 of 12 passes for 152 yards and 1 TD.

His prettiest pass of the day with a 62-yard TD strike to freshman receiver Caleb Douglas on a sideline strike late in the third quarter, which put Florida up 45-3.

"We see it in practice," offensive lineman Richie Leonard IV said. "Kitna's got a heck of an arm. Like I said we see it in practice every day, so it didn't come as a surprise to me to see him get out there and do what he did today."

Florida coach Billy Napier said Kitna recently recorded a perfect outing from an accuracy standpoint during a Thursday practice.

"The last probably two weeks, he’s really grown up a lot," Napier said. "If you go back to training camp, probably the fourth or fifth day of training camp, he got injured, so he missed significant time. But since (backup QB) Jack (Miller's) injury, he’s started getting those 2s, you’ve seen some growth there. All the guy does is thrown completions in practice. That’s what he did today."

A redshirt freshman from Tacoma, Wash., Kitna comes from NFL bloodlines. His father, Jon Kitna, was a former quarterback at Central Washington before going on to a 17-year NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

Kitna said his father initially pushed him toward other sports, such as golf, because he was worried about the contact he would take as a college or possibly pro QB.

"When I was little, I played a lot of different sports, tennis, golf, anything like that, I never really loved any of those games, as much as I loved football," Kitna said.

But Kitna said his father is now a valuable resource and supports his goals.

"Whatever I’ve asked, he’s always there," Kitna said. "He’s been great just coaching me up and teaching me, but also letting me figure things out and have my own journey."