FRISCO, Texas – When Jason Garrett was called into action midway through the 2010 season to become the interim head coach of the Cowboys, his quarterback was veteran Jon Kitna.
And young Dak Prescott was just a 17-year-old in high school.
Fast forward nearly nine full years and it's now Kitna who is a rookie assistant coach in the NFL, joining Garrett's staff as the quarterbacks coach. And while he has several goals, there's one that seems to stand out more than others:
Get Prescott to an elite status.
If that can happen, the Cowboys certainly have a chance to be an elite team as well, especially considering they advanced to the NFC Divisional round last year after a 10-6 regular-season record.
Kitna, a 16-year NFL veteran who played two seasons with the Cowboys, said he believes Prescott is on the right track in reaching that goal.
"He already has an elite mindset," Kitna said of Prescott. "He doesn't want to just be good enough, or very good or great. He wants to be elite. He wants to be the best. He wants to eliminate anything that he sees as a weakness. He wants to get better at it. His drive is what sets him apart, I believe."
This won't be Kitna's first shot at coaching. He spent three years at a high school in Tacoma, Wash., before three more years at Waxahachie High School, just south of Dallas.
In some ways, Kitna says coaching NFL quarterbacks is even easier than at the high school level.
"Yeah, it's hard in high school to get those kids to understand that the smallest little details matter," Kitna said. "At the pro level, they do understand. They understand when you have to take a different hitch and that affects things down the field. I never really coached quarterbacks in high school because I knew I would be too technical for them and they wouldn't be able to understand it. Here, these guys are really working hard at eliminating false steps. My example is always Jason Witten. He's going to the Hall of Fame because he eliminated false steps. It's the same thing we want to do at quarterback."
And with one quarterback specifically, Kitna said he has inherited a "student of the game" in Prescott.
"Fortunately for me as the QB coach, he wants to be elite," Kitna said. "He wants to be the best. He comes out every day wondering, asking the whys – why am I doing this? What do you want me to do this for? He wants to know how it connects and how it'll help him become an elite player for a long time."
Kitna added that getting to that level is not easy – in any aspect of life.
"The hardest thing in life is to go from really good or great to elite," Kitna said. "I think it's one of the hardest things. They're kind of enemies of each other. Because when you're really good at something, you can say I don't need to work on that. Why do I need to take a step backward? You can say that's good enough. As opposed to, no, there's still room to get better and get to elite."
That's where he wants Dak Prescott to be. And apparently, that's where Prescott is wanting to go as well.