Long before the Eagles made Jalen Reagor the 21st pick out of TCU in the 2020 draft, former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna already knew how special Reagor was.
Kitna knew from the first moment he saw him.
Kitna, the 14-year NFL veteran, moved his family down to Waxahachie, Texas, in February of 2015 after taking the head football coach job at the high school. The very first weekend in town, Jon’s son Jordan, who was going to be a senior quarterback in the fall, got a bunch of players together to run some routes.
While Kitna played against Jalen’s father Montae in the NFL, he didn’t know much about his son. He learned in a hurry watching him that day.
“I mean, he’s a sophomore and he’s running routes and I’m like, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this for a kid his age,’” Kitna said to NBC Sports Philadelphia on a Zoom call Friday.
“Immediately, my receiver coach was a former NFL player (Damola Adeniji) and we both looked at each other and said we could take him up to the Cowboys right now and run routes on air right now with all the QBs and receivers and nobody would know he’s a high school sophomore. That’s how polished he was, that’s how good he ran routes, that’s how explosive he was and then catching everything with his hands. We were like, ‘wow, this is different.’”
What made it more impressive was that Reagor wasn’t even really a receiver yet. He played defensive back earlier in his high school career for the Indians.
But Kitna immediately saw something special in Reagor. So when he didn’t feel like Reagor was running hard enough in their very first practice that spring, he kicked him out of the huddle.
“When I kicked him out of the huddle, he was mad, he was crying, but it was like a turning point for him,” Kitna said. “I never had an issue with him (again).”
Kitna said he and the receivers coach tried to explain to Reagor that they were being tough on him because they saw him as a future NFL receiver and they wanted him to maximize his potential.
Five years later, Reagor became a first-round pick.
The incredible highlight reel
In his junior and senior seasons at Waxahachie High School, Reagor became a star. He caught 64 passes for 1,108 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior and followed it up with a 50/967/14 campaign as a senior, becoming a four-star recruit and ranked as the 13th-best receiver in the nation.
He also excelled on the basketball court and on the track. The first time Kitna ever watched Reagor play basketball, the 5-foot-11 guard tried to dunk over somebody from the free throw line. And on the track, Reagor was the lead leg on the 4x100 team and won the state title in long jump, once jumping 26 feet in a district meet!
While Reagor excelled on the court and on the track, it was nothing compared to what he was doing on the football field.
Reagor’s high school highlight reel is incredible, but Kitna wanted to point out a play he didn’t think would be on it. During Reagor’s junior year, the Indians were in a must-win game with playoff implications; Reagor separated the AC joint in his shoulder in the first half. But with the game on the line on a 4th-and-20, Reagor skied to catch a pass over a defender, landed on his injured shoulder and held on.
“It was one of the great plays,” Kitna said, “but he had so many of them.”
Eagles showed a ton of interest
Even after Reagor went off to TCU for three seasons in the Big 12 and after Kitna left Waxahachie High School, the two kept in touch. Reagor would send Kitna practice tape for him to help break down and they would often talk before and after games.
The Eagles didn’t try to hide their interest in Reagor and Kitna said he got the sense that the Eagles and the Saints were the two teams most interested. At least those were the two teams that reached out to him the most.
“They did their homework,” Kitna said. “When you’re dealing with a first-round draft pick, you’re going to want to know everything. How’s he work, how’s he catch, how’s he run routes, everything.”
The Eagles also care about character. Reagor made it a point on Thursday night to point out that he’s a great locker room presence and his coaches back him up on that. Waxahatche athletic director and former coach Greg Reed said aside from Reagor’s talent, he’ll most remember his character and dedication.
‘No telling what he can do’
Kitna watched the first round of the draft with his family on Thursday night and they all erupted when they heard Reagor’s name called.
Now, he can’t wait to see what Reagor is able to do playing with Carson Wentz in the Eagles’ offense for the next four years.
“There’s no telling what he can do,” Kitna said. “I know at TCU he was kind of that Z receiver on the right. We moved him all over the place. He can go in motion, he can come in the backfield.
“When he gets the ball in his hands, he’s dynamically special. When you think of a guy like Tyreek Hill, what he’s done, Antonio Brown, what he’s done. Those kinds of things that those guys do on a football field. He kind of has that same specialness to him.”
Kitna knew from Day 1.
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