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Learning the ABCs of Alabama Crimson Tide Football: "K"

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Learning the ABCs of Alabama Crimson Tide Football:
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As a quarterback at the University of Alabama, one joins a long line of successful men to lead the Crimson Tide offense. Names such as Stabler, Namath, Todd, and McElroy to name a few have brought success and for some, national championships to Tuscaloosa.

One quarterback who did not win a national championship, but nonetheless should not be forgotten from the mid 1990's, was Freddie Kitchens.

A native of Gadsden, Ala., Kitchens was a decorated high school quarterback. He passed for 1,346 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 622 yards as a junior. Kitchens followed that performance with 1,640 passing yards and 16 touchdowns in his senior season. He was a high school All-American and was named Mr. Football in the state of Alabama. 

From 1994 to 1997, Kitchens wore the Crimson and White for head coaches Gene Stallings and Mike DuBose at Alabama. He saw his first collegiate action as a back-up behind starting quarterback Brian Burgdorf in 1995. During the 41-14 loss to Tennessee, Kitchens tied Gary Hollingsworth's single-game school record with 43 pass attempts. He also threw his first career touchdown pass in that same game, a two-yard toss to Chad Key.

Kitchens started his first game later that season, a 14-9 win over Mississippi State. In the season finale against arch-rival Auburn, he passed for a career-high 302 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for a score, but the Tigers topped the Crimson Tide 31-27. Kitchens finished the season passing for 811 yards and three touchdowns. Even though Alabama finished with an 8-3 record, the Crimson Tide were ineligible for a bowl game that season due to NCAA sanctions.

Kitchens became the starting quarterback in 1996 and led Alabama to a 7-0 start. Looking to avenge a 27-point defeat at the hands of Tennessee the previous year, Kitchens threw a touchdown pass to help give Alabama a 13-0 third quarter lead. However, the Volunteers rallied late and grabbed a 20-13 lead.

On Alabama's final possession of the game, Kitchens found Michael Vaughn for a 56-yard completion to the Tennessee 22-yard line. After advancing the ball to the 11-yard line, Kitchens was sacked by Tennessee's Leonard Little to seal the win for the Volunteers.

After suffering an upset loss to Mississippi State one week earlier, Alabama needed to defeat Auburn to clinch the SEC West and earn a spot in the SEC Championship Game against Florida. Kitchens responded with his best game of the season. Trailing 24-23 with 2:14 remaining in the game, Kitchens led a 74-yard touchdown drive, which ended with a six-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Riddle with 26 seconds remaining. The extra point gave Alabama a 24-23 win, as Kitchens finished with a season-high 292 yards passing and three touchdowns.

After the thrilling win over Auburn, Alabama faced a challenge against fourth-ranked Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Kitchens passed for 264 yards and three touchdowns, but it was not enough, as the Gators defeated the Crimson Tide, 45-30. One of Kitchens' touchdown passes was a 94-yard completion to Vaughn, which still ranks as the longest touchdown reception in school history.

Despite the Florida loss, Kitchens and Alabama earned a trip to the Outback Bowl, defeating Michigan, 17-14, in Stallings' final game as head coach. Kitchens finished the season with 2,124 yards passing and 14 touchdowns.   

Unfortunately, Kitchens career ended on a sour note in his senior season of 1997. Under first year head coach Mike DuBose, Kitchens led Alabama to a 3-1 start. He passed for two touchdowns in consecutive games against Southern Mississippi and Kentucky and threw a touchdown and a season-high 229 yards in a win at Mississippi. His final game was a tough 18-17 loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, which completed a 4-7 season. Kitchens finished the season passing for 1,545 yards with 11 touchdowns.

Kitchens left Alabama with 4,668 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. He remains in the Alabama record book in two categories. Kitchens is fifth all-time with 680 career attempts. In addition, his 135 consecutive pass attempts without an interception in 1997 is the fifth-longest streak. 

Since 2000, Kitchens has served as an assistant coach on the collegiate and professional levels. He was a graduate assistant for one year under head coach Nick Saban at LSU. Afterwards, he was the running backs coach at North Texas from 2001 to 2003, as the Mean Green won three straight Sun Belt Conference titles. He was also a tight ends coach at Mississippi State in 2004 and 2005. 

In 2006, Kitchens jumped to the NFL and was an assistant coach with Dallas in 2006. Since 2007, he has been the tight ends coach for the Arizona Cardinals.

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