It wasn’t that long ago that Brett Kern tried to replicate many of the things Craig Hentrich did.
Now the 24-year-old is in position to replace Hentrich, who was the Tennessee Titans’ punter since 1998.
“I self-taught myself everything so I just tried to watch guys on TV,” Kern said. “Craig was one of the guys I tried to emulate. He has such good form, which is obviously why he played for 17 years. I tried to copy some of the things he was doing and really worked hard at it.”
The product of a family with a rich soccer history, Kern went rogue, so to speak, as a sophomore in high school when he decided he’d rather kick a soccer ball.
He was good enough that he appeared in 47 games over four years at the University of Toledo and was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award as a senior. Undrafted, he still became the Denver Broncos’ punter as a rookie in 2008 and earned several all-rookie accolades.
“I played soccer for 14 years so I knew I could kick,” he said. “I knew I had the leg strength. Soccer didn’t work out, so I just tried kicking footballs. I was pretty decent at it. I was just a little raw at it. So I figured if I watched guys on TV and stuff, and really watched how they do it and stuff like that, if I could just repeat what they’re doing, maybe that would help out.
“It was a lot of practice over time.”
When he was waived by Denver in late Oct. 2009, the Titans promptly claimed him. He held the job for the final 10 games of the season and thus entered the offseason with a leg up on all others who might have designs on the job.
Hentrich officially retired in March after a calf injury in the second game of the 2009 season ended his career a bit prematurely. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and the last member of Tennessee’s 1999 Super Bowl team still with the franchise as well as the Titans’ holder on placekicks.
“It is one thing to work a punter or kicker out and then go through an offseason and not have any opportunity to see how he responds in real games,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “That is not the case with Brett. We had Brett here and he punted very well for us and can hold.
“… He was a good punter when he came in and I think he is going to be a better one this year.”
No one’s prepared to say he’s going to be better than Hentrich, but there is reason to believe he can do a lot of the same things – in the same manner.
“Little did I know that I would get the opportunity to work under him for the time that I was here (last season) and obviously we have a real good friendship,” Kern said. “That’s definitely helping a lot.
“I’m very blessed and fortunate that the situation worked out the way it did, coming in during the bye week and just being able to perform, to help the team out. … It was nice to get 10 games under the belt here going into the season.”
It put him in position to follow in Hentrich’s footsteps.