April 7, 2005, will forever be etched in the memory of recently signed Jets quarterback G.J. Kinne.
Kinne was a sophomore in his northeastern Texas high school, sitting in class and patiently waiting for the bell to ring. He was the big man on campus, the quarterback and a fast-rising recruit whose father was the head football coach at the school.
There was a knock on the classroom door and a police officer and assistant coach entered the room and requested Kinne to follow them. He was full of questions, but the answers were few.
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“My heart sank a little. I knew I didn’t do anything wrong. I began asking questions but they didn’t know anything,” Kinne told Metro.
“Finally, I was told that my father was shot. My heart sank again; I became very emotional. I ran to the locker room to see what had happened.”
A parent, angry that his freshman son hadn’t gotten enough playing time, went to the school that day and shot the head coach.
“I saw all the blood in his office. I got to see him right before he went on the helicopter, just to tell him that I’d see him soon,” Kinne said. “He was in bad shape. I was scared.”
His father was in the hospital from April to August, returning in time to coach two-a-days for Kinne’s junior season.
“He missed just one game that season and we went on to our best season ever. We were 12-2 that year,” Kinne said.
Kinne went on to become a national recruit who would commit to Texas and eventually transfer to Tulsa. Saturday he signed as a free agent.
Kinne cites his relationship with former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, who mentored him at TEST Sports Clubs as part of his NFL draft training, as the reason why he signed with the Jets. Several other teams had called Kinne with similar offers, but Pennington’s words about Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano struck a chord with Kinne.
“It really came down to what I had heard about them. I threw with Chad Pennington when I was down in Florida and training at TEST,” Kinne said. “He knows Sparano really well and he said ‘Hey if you get the chance to work with coach Sparano, you should do it. You’ll like playing for him.’”
There were question marks about Kinne coming into the NFL draft as teams were uncertain about arm strength and accuracy. But Kinne is good with his feet. He was Tulsa’s leading rusher his sophomore and junior seasons and threw for over 3,000 yards each of his last two seasons. His arm is also a bit stronger than advertised, but it’s his athleticism that is intriguing.
“G.J. Kinne is a tremendous athlete and very coachable. He is strong and can throw the ball over 70 yards,” said TEST owner Brian Martin, who trained Kinne this spring.
“His foot work is excellent and he is a natural leader. He worked hard with coach Chad Pennington this off season. I believe he has a bright future ahead of him."
One NFL scout, speaking to Metro New York on the condition of anonymity, likes Kinne’s chances to make the team.
“He does have a good enough arm to play in the NFL and his versatility means he can find a niche with the Jets in their Wildcat package. In many ways, he can make their team as their fourth quarterback,” the scout said. “If he does, then he essentially serves as the backup to [Tim] Tebow.”
Kinne doesn’t care what his role is. He just wants a chance.
“I always considered myself a rushing quarterback, but still a quarterback who can throw the ball,” Kinne said. “I can do anything they ask me to do. I’m coming in to compete with everyone to make the team.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for team news throughout the offseason.