When Brett Kern was presented with the opportunity to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles as the team's new punter, he immediately knew it was the perfect fit – he packed his bags in Tennessee moments after receiving the call from his agent.
"In my mind, I knew I was going to kick again. I just didn't know where or when, but I knew I still wanted to keep playing. So mentally, I stayed ready, physically stayed ready, just for whatever opportunity came, and I'm extremely thankful for this one," Kern said on Wednesday.
It's not just because the Eagles are a hot 12-1 team with a locked-up playoff spot and Super Bowl aspirations, or because his 13-year-old son, Bryce, has Jalen Hurts starting at quarterback in his fantasy football lineup. Kern attributed much of his decision to prior relationships with players and staff members across the organization.
"The decision to come here was a no-brainer, obviously, because of the season y'all are having, but also familiarity with a lot of people on the staff and some players, and knowing Jake (Elliott) and Rick (Lovato)."
The 6-foot-2, 36-year-old punter was signed by the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He stayed in Denver until he was waived in October, 2009. His next and longest stop was Tennessee, where he became the organization's all-time leading punter, recording 923 career attempts. He's also the team's all-time career leader in gross punting average (45.9 yards), net punting average (40.8), and punts placed inside the 20-yard line (373). His resume earned him three straight Pro Bowl appearances from 2017-19. He was released at the start of the season when the team signed Ryan Stonehouse, a younger and less-expensive 23-year-old rookie.
In Tennessee, he got to know several people who now work in the NovaCare Complex, including wide receiver A.J. Brown and Senior Athletic Trainer Jerome Reid, among others.
His reunion with Brown was a very welcome one – Kern admitted he was disappointed to see him go when he was traded to the Eagles during the 2022 draft.
"When I found out that A.J. got traded here, I was genuinely sad because he's a great teammate and he's a good friend. I had a lot of conversations with him in the locker room, joking around," Kern said.
"To be able to come here and know that A.J. was here – I saw him this morning, gave him a big old hug, and caught up for a little bit."
Another name on that list is Head Coach Nick Sirianni. Kern said his father, Cal – the President and Owner of the Niagara Power, an amateur baseball team, and the New York State Director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, knows Sirianni's dad, Fran, a Jamestown native, through their Western New York connection.
"It's great to come somewhere when you know faces, you're kind of familiar with people. It makes it a little bit easier," said Kern.
Though he hasn't punted or held yet this season, Kern says he's ready to get back out there.
"Once you get on the football field, you just kind of go back to what you've done for a long time," he said.
"I'll ask Jake what he likes, and it should probably take me a minute, two minutes to figure it out."
Kern will make his Eagles debut on Sunday against the Chicago Bears.