Coaches get emails all the time from guys who fantasize about being college football players and are looking for their shot. Most of those deservedly end up in the computer’s trash bin and are never followed up on.
The one that Jack Kalina sent in the middle of June to Doane, however, ended up producing the Tigers’ starting quarterback this fall, despite the fact the junior transfer from Omaha’s baseball program had not played football in almost four years when he arrived on campus last month.
“I’m glad we called that guy back,” Doane coach Chris Bessler said, laughing.
In his first football game since the 2014 season when he was a senior at Papillion-La Vista, Kalina completed 17 of 32 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ season-opening 57-3 win at Friends University on Aug. 25.
Doane, which has had the past two weekends off, returns to action Saturday at Dordt in its Great Plains Athletic Conference opener.
“Those first couple drives were pretty nerve-wracking,” said the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Kalina. “I didn’t feel like myself. It wasn’t what I looked like in practice, it felt like everything was going 1,000 miles per hour. Luckily I have some great teammates who helped me settle down on the sidelines. After the first couple throws and my first touchdown pass, everything slowed down and felt normal again.”
Kalina said it was a tough call between football and Division I baseball out of high school. The former all-state baseball player eventually chose that sport at Omaha.
“The first two years I had fun there and I was happy, then I didn’t play much this past spring and started thinking about football,” Kalina said. “I was working a couple jobs in Omaha this summer, taking classes and I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this two more years. Let’s go see if I can play football somewhere.’”
Kalina sent out emails to five area colleges in the GPAC, “and Doane took me pretty seriously,” he said.
Kalina immediately hit it off with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Anthony Dunn, a Papillion-La Vista South graduate who holds Doane’s career passing record with 7,716 yards. Kalina committed to Doane before previous head coach Matt Franzen stepped down to become athletic director and Bessler was promoted to the head position in early July.
“I was worried that with the coaching change, he might change his mind,” Bessler said of Kalina, who only played quarterback at Papillion-La Vista his senior year, when he threw for 1,620 yards and 11 touchdowns. Kalina was a safety and wide receiver his first three years of high school.
“Jack is very composed, I like his pocket presence and he’s got a really strong arm,” Bessler added. “This is just his second year as a quarterback, so he’s got a lot of room to grow. Hopefully he’s just getting started with what he can accomplish.”
Getting accustomed to being hit and learning the playbook have been Kalina’s two biggest adjustments in his return to football.
“It was weird the first couple days of practice watching Coach Dunn drawing up plays on the white board. That’s when it hit me that, ‘Wow, I’m really doing this,’" Kalina said.
“I took a couple shots in that first game, but I’ll take a few hits to be on a football field again. I didn’t mind at all,” he added.