ORLANDO, Fla. – Is it Friday yet?
Punter Brett Kern had a heck of a season for the Titans, and this week he’s surrounded by the NFL’s best here at the Pro Bowl. During practices he’s mingled with some of the game’s most recognizable players.
On Sunday, he’s planning to keep pulverizing footballs like he did all year.
Kern’s eight-year-old son, Bryce, could hardly wait for this week. He brought football cards from home, and he’s already been collecting some autographs. During Thursday’s practice, Bryce hung out with his dad on the field at ESPN Wide World of Sports, and even kicked field goals. His mini Pro Bowl helmet already had a few signatures on it.
But in the land of Mickey and Minnie, not to mention princesses from “Frozen,” Kern’s five-year-old daughter has something else on her mind. And it’s not football.
“Anelle is all about meeting Anna,” Kern said with a smile, referring to the character from Disney’s “Frozen.” “She has her Elsa dress already picked out. She is excited about the (Pro Bowl) game, but she keeps asking about Disney.
“The kids keep asking me when Friday is because we are going to all four Disney parks, and we’re going to ride the rides. So that is going is be a highlight for us. But these practices are cool, being able to hang out with some of the guys and enjoy this moment. It’s all such a blessing really.”
Kern earned the trip.
The 10-year veteran led the NFL in punting average (49.7) and net average (44.6). The net average ranked second in NFL history, and the gross average ranked eighth all-time in the NFL.
Kern broke his own franchise record marks during the season, and he now owns the top six net punting seasons in franchise history. He seems to be getting better with age.
“I think each year I just get a little more comfortable out there,” Kern said of his success. “And I think you get a little more confident each year. I just go out there each week and try to have fun.”
Kern is having a blast this week.
At Pro Bowl practice, he spent some time with Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, reminiscing about their college days, when Kern used to punt the ball to Brown. Kern was at Toledo then, Brown at Central Michigan.
“Kern, man that guy has always been nice,” Brown said after Thursday’s practice. “It is super-cool to see a guy like Kern make it here. Any time you see a guy like that, someone who puts in a lot of work, make it, it’s cool.”
Kern has talked with Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt, who also went to Toledo. He’s spent a lot of time with Steelers kicker Chris Boswell. Before practice, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin shook hands with Kern, and with a smile, told him not to sweat too much.
“My locker is next Big Ben,” Kern said of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “He is from the same area where my wife grew up. We were talking about local restaurants and all those things. It’s great to hang out with the guys and soak it all in. It is quite an experience.”
Kern’s whole family made the trip. Back in college, when they were engaged, Tiffany Kern would go to the local, unheated golf dome in Toledo when it closed at 9 o’clock at night, and retrieve the footballs he would punt, one after another. In addition to the couple’s oldest children, daughter Quinn, who turns two in March, also made the trip to Orlando.
Kern’s parents are already in town for the festivities, and his in-laws are due in today.
Kern even brought along long snapper Beau Brinkley, showing his appreciation for his work during the season.
It’s a memory they’d like to keep frozen in time.
And it's not even Friday yet.
“It is kind of surreal to be here,” Kern said. “To experience everything from check-in to the first meeting and being around the guys in practices. …
“We are just going to enjoy the week and it’s an honor to be here, representing the Titans. My first time here at the Pro Bowl, this is a blessing. And the last time I was at Disney I was about three years old. So to be able to come back and experience it with my family, it is great. It is quite an experience.”
Titans players take part in Pro Bowl practice on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 in Kissimmee, Fla. (Photos: Nate Bain)