NASHVILLE – Brett Kern sat down at his computer earlier this week facing one of the biggest challenges of his long and successful playing career – writing his retirement speech.
So much has transpired since his days growing up Grand Island, N.Y., when he first started punting footballs over the roof of his childhood home, and then over the power lines on the streets.
He'd eventually play in high school and college before reaching the ultimate goal of punting in the National Football League. Kern spent most of his career in Nashville, with the Tennessee Titans.
Kern made countless memories along the way.
Trying to fit that journey into a manageable retirement speech, well, it's been no easy task.
"It's been hard," said Kern, who is retiring after 15 NFL seasons. "It's also brought back a lot of memories, too. You want to be able to thank a ton of people who helped you over the years, and all the memories from games, from teammates and coaches, conversations in the locker rooms, and road trips.
"To try and get 15 years into 3-4 pages on Microsoft Word, it's been pretty challenging. It's been emotional, too, just thinking back at certain memories. It's also emotional just because there's such a sense of gratitude to a lot of people who have helped me get this far. And, just knowing it's closing a chapter on a really important part of my life and starting a new one."
Kern will officially announce his retirement on Thursday, capping his playing career.
During his playing days with the Titans, Kern became one of the most productive punters in the NFL, setting numerous club records and cementing himself as one of the best directional punters in NFL history.
Kern, who played in college at the University of Toledo, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Denver Broncos in 2008. He played 22 games with the Broncos before being released. He was claimed off waivers by the Titans midway through the 2009 campaign, and his career took off.
"When I came to Tennessee, I had just been (released)," Kern said. "I was confused, angry, kind of all the emotions. But at the same time, I was extremely thankful. I was getting another chance, and to be able to come to the Titans, it was a great opportunity."
Kern took advantage of it.
Over his 15-year NFL career, Kern appeared in 223 regular season games and recorded 1,006 punts for 46,136 yards (45.9 avg.) with 396 kicks placed inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Kern saw action in nine postseason contests and registered 41 punts for 1,879 yards (45.8 avg.) with 20 kicks placed inside the 20-yard line. He was named to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2017 to 2019 and earned first team Associated Press All-Pro honors for the first time in 2019, and was a two-time captain (2020 & 2021).
Kern finished his career in Tennessee as the team's all-time career leader in punts (923), gross punting average (45.9 yards), net punting average (40.8) and punts placed inside the 20 (373). Kern owns nine of the top 10 net punting seasons in franchise history and six of the team's top nine gross punting seasons. With 197 career games played with the Titans, Kern ranks third in franchise history behind Bruce Matthews (296) and Elvin Bethea (210). His total is the most for any player during the franchise's "Titans era" (since 1999).
"I want to congratulate Brett on an amazing NFL career," Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement. "He was a true professional and one of the important players who helped our organization reach the level of success that we have sustained for a number of years now. After being named to three Pro Bowls, receiving All-Pro honors and setting record after record, he would be on a very short list of the best waiver claims our organization has ever made. Brett will always be considered part of the Titans family, and we wish him continued success in the years to come."
Kern concluded his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022.
Now, he's set to begin his next chapter.
"It's hard to come up with the words, and the amount of thankfulness that I have for so much," Kern said. "I am so thankful I was able to be here, and to be able to raise my family here and to play for an organization for so long.
"I am extremely grateful for everything I was able to experience, and to be able to represent the organization. It's been a blessing."
Kern finished his career in Tennessee as the team's all-time career leader in punts (923), gross punting average (45.9 yards), net punting average (40.8) and punts placed inside the 20 (373). Kern owns nine of the top 10 net punting seasons in franchise history and six of the team's top nine gross punting seasons.