Kitna is a fanatic for Christ, there's no question. He often prays on his way to the line of scrimmage, to calm himself. But it's clear to teammates that he sees God as more than a lucky rabbit's foot, which is why, while the vast majority of Lions prefer to keep their beliefs private, Kitna's public pronouncements don't grate on them. Posers and prima donnas splinter far more locker rooms than religion. And Kitna walks his talk without sanctimony. He doesn't drink or cuss.
The worst anyone can recall him saying on the field is "fudge." He says he has tithed at least 10 percent of his salary his entire adult life. That includes the time he spent as a teacher after a record-setting career at Central Washington. The donations got bigger when the Seahawks signed him as a free agent in 1996, and they continued to grow after stops in Cincinnati (where he was the league's 2003 Comeback Player of the Year) and, now, Detroit. "It's about production on the field and consistency off it," Kitna says. "What guys really have a problem with is inconsistency -- people who say one thing and do another. Hypocrites. Chameleons. My teammates learn pretty quick that this is who I am, every day and in every situation."
And the tests come constantly. Walking into the Lions' locker room a few days before the Vikings game, Kitna was greeted by silence. The Lions have three iPod docks that plug into their speaker system. But when someone began blasting Christian music, a tense standoff ensued. It was noted, loudly, that a majority of people in the room didn't want to listen to God rock. And so the speakers remained mute until Kitna arrived. "Everyone's music should be heard," he said, "or no one's." The Christian rock was resurrected, followed by a heavy dose of hip-hop.
"Learning about each other, understanding each other, compromising for each other -- that's what it's like in a good locker room," says Lions wideout Roy Williams.
"That's some real s... that went down with the music and Jon's response. And that's the stuff we never had around here in years past. Is that religion? I don't know. Jon talks to everybody, I know that. And the last quarterback we had didn't do that."
Last November, during a long flight home after another defeat, Williams asked Kitna if his cussing during games was getting out of hand. Kitna said he wasn't one to judge, then explained in a whisper how he hadn't always been so pious. In 1993, Kitna was drinking himself to oblivion four nights a week, shoplifting, brawling, cussing constantly and sleeping with, he says, "all different kinds of women" behind Jennifer's back.
Eventually she caught him in bed with another woman, which is when he decided to go back to church. He believes God removed those vices from his life with a snap of His mighty fingers. Ten months later, Jon and Jennifer were married. "I didn't feel pressure or like he was judging me," Williams says of his talk with Kitna. "Jon just said, 'If you ever want to go deeper, I'm always here.' I'm young; I have questions about religion and faith. He's a good guy to ask."