Michael Kern is on a serious roll. No matter what time of the year it is, he always seems to be having success as a quarterback.
In July, Kern was back at the Duel and he finished first among incoming sophomores. He has now finished first in his age group three straight years at NFA’s premier competition.
“On one end, you go into it having some confidence, ‘OK I know I can do this from past experience,’” Kern said. “On the other hand, I have to try to do the best I can to do that again. You know the guys coming in are great quarterbacks that have great arms and great minds. It’s quite a competition, and wanting to keep the streak going can give you some nerves heading into it.”
As usual, Kern proved to be a steady hand at the Duel, and he came out on top. But while he is as intense of a competitor as you’ll find, winning the Duel wasn’t Kern’s one and only goal.
“Just being able to go up there to the Duel and compete with everyone, it’s such a great experience that I look forward to,” Kern said. “Being able to win it, that obviously can enhance the enjoyment. But being able to go out there with the guys and see them all throw and build relationships there, it’s really fun. Win or lose, it’s just a fun competition that I look forward to every year. It’s a good time.”
Heading into his fall football season at Lake Nona High School in Orlando, Fla., the 16-year-old QB continues having spectacular success. While helping the Lions roll out to a 3-0 start, Kern has completed 74 of 113 passes (65 percent) for 1,116 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception and has also rushed for a TD.
“I’m really excited being with all the guys I’m out there playing with,” Kern said. “The whole goal for us is to prepare for varsity and be ready. The stats are fun to count and look back at, but every rep, I’m kind of taking it as preparing myself for varsity, when it really matters. The guys I’m out there with, I keep relaying that message to them and they’re really getting it. The guys I’m growing up with and I’m going to be with on varsity, we’re building that connection now. We’re all just getting that mindset of we’re getting ready to go to the big show, let’s be ready. So every rep, we kind of have that mentality rather than, ‘Let’s try to do good for ourselves.’ We’re trying to get that team mentality and get ready to win some ballgames up on the varsity level.”
With the upbeat Kern in the program, the Lake Nona varsity football team has an extremely bright future. The 6-foot, 150-pounder got an early feel for what’s to come when he played in a varsity scrimmage before the season.
“Just to get in, I was very excited,” Kern said. “It’s kind of funny, I only got in for two drives but just being able to be in the game and see the change of pace, it was awesome. I was so excited when they told me I was going in. There were nerves, but at the same time I was very excited to see how it is, how it goes. I think it was good to get a lot of the jitters out. Going into next year, I should be ready just because I had a taste of it.”
The best quarterbacks not only know how to deal with the constant pressure that comes with playing the position, they actually thrive when the going gets tough.
Michael Kern fits that profile.
At the Duel in July, Kern was fourth among incoming ninth graders heading into the final gauntlet, but he kicked his game up to another level and wound up winning NFA’s showcase event in Massillon, Ohio. The comeback might have been the best in Duel history.
“I gave it my all and hoped for the best,” Kern said. “I love the pressure. I think it’s great and it helps motivate me.”
Winning his second straight Duel – Kern finished second in 2013 and ’12 – gave him an added shot of confidence heading into the current season.
Although he is only a freshman, Kern is the starting quarterback for Lake Nona High School Junior Varsity team in Orlando, Fla. In the Lions’ first game, a 48-0 win, he completed 20 of 34 passes for 218 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also connected on 3 extra point passes.
With no playoffs at the JV level, Kern has set other goals. “A big goal is having an undefeated season,” he said. “Just do as well as we can and try to win all eight games. I’m just looking to help out in any way I can.”
As he showed in the season opener, Kern is going to be a big asset. He is also looking forward to playing in an “Air Attack” offense.
“I can do some things I haven’t been able to do,” Kern said. “I’m just excited to play. We’ll run five wide receivers, four wide receivers. We go out and just throw the ball a lot. I’m really excited to play in this offense.”
Kern has already experienced an incredible amount of success, but the 15-year-old QB is not about to sit back and bask in the glory. “Some of it, you just have to be excited about it and try to remember it,” he said. “But other times you have to remember that you haven’t gone through the high school experience yet. Even though I have done a lot of things as an underclassman, as a high schooler I haven’t proven myself yet. So I feel like every day I have to go prove myself that I can play high school football the way I’ve played as an underclassman.”
Kern has been training with NFA for six years, and he also had one-on-one workouts with coach Michael Slack in the off-season.
“He really helped me a lot,” Kern said. “And NFA, they’ve helped me tremendously. NFA is where I learned how to throw a football. Through the years, they’ve helped me with my throwing mechanics and they’ve helped me learn how to read defenses. I also went to the R4 camp in Texas and learned how to use it, and it’s been a great help.”
As he advances into high school, the 5-foot-9, 130-pounder is still working to get better. “I have to get bigger,” Kern said. I’m going into the weight room a lot. I’m actually in the weight lifting class at our school with the head football coach, and that’s every day. Also, I have to improve my arm strength and learn the offense. It’s a big offense, a lot to wrap your head around. It’s been going great so far, but there’s always more you can get better at.”
Michael Kern taking his game to a higher level
The Michael Kern Watch continues on this season.
Having aleady established himself as a gifted young quarterback while playing in Pop Warner Leagues and all-star games in past years, Kern is getting even better with age.
His banner campaign started in July, when Kern won the Duel in Massillon, Ohio. After finishing second as an incoming sixth grader in 2012 and second as an incoming seventh grader in ’13, he climbed to the top rung in NFA’s showcase event this past summer.
“Coming in second place two years in a row, the second time I was kind of like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’” Kern said. “But I think it pushed me a lot harder to get to first place. I went in this year knowing I had what it takes, so I just had to go the extra mile.”
‘Huge confidence builder’
Winning the Duel helped Kern prepare for his current season with AAU Lake Nona in Florida. The 5-foot-6, 110-pounder is playing his first year of football against bigger, stronger defenses, but the results remain stellar.
The Lions are off to a 5-1 start in the 14U league, and Kern has completed 32 of 46 passes (70 percent) for 626 yards and 8 touchdowns. That comes out to a lofty 124.5 QB Rating, and he is also averaging 5.6 rushing yards per carry with another TD.
“Since the competition at the Duel is so good with kids from all around the country, I was kind of nervous going into it,” Kern said. “But knowing that I won it against all those kids, it’s a huge confidence builder. I can walk on the football field knowing I was the No. 1 kid in NFA and no one else on this field is.”
Lake Nona, a powerhouse program in the Orlando area, lost its first game before rattling off five straight wins.
“Out first game, I think we came out overly confident,” Kern said. “But I think it kind of put us in our place and showed us what we needed to work on. I think that was actually good for us. We got to kind of see what our issues were and we worked on fixing them.”
Now that the season has progressed and Kern has gotten used to a new team and new league, the results have been impressive.
“It’s really good,” Kern said. “I like the offense a lot more. We run a couple different formations and we’re spreading defenses out and then we’ll hit them with runs and quick passes and we’ll extend them with long passes. It’s a lot more methodical than last year and I’m getting a lot more opportunites to throw the ball. So far, it’s been an all-around better situation for me.”
Kern has obviously benefitted from working with NFA the past five years. All of the work with his mechanics and footwork are showing on the field, but Kern continues taking steps to improve his overall game.
“I’ve been working on the mental part of my game a lot more this season,” he said. “We did a lot of off-season work on mechanics, drops and getting everything into muscle memory physically. Now, I’m working on mental things – the coaches putting defenses out there and reading coverages and telling them where the ball should be going and getting it there. And there’s in-game reps, looking at film, checking tendencies, where perople are lining up, what coverages they’re going to run, when they’re blitzing, a lot of that kind of stuff. Mentally, it’s getting ready for high school, getting ready for the years to come.”
If they are anything like past years or the current season, Kern is going to be an even better quarterback when he reaches high school.
There is much more to playing quarterback than squatting under center or standing back in the shotgun and leading the offense to the end zone.
Michael Kern succeeds on, off field
The best quarterbacks are leaders on and off the field, and they are adept at handling success and adversity in similar positive fashion. Michael Kern has all of those qualities, and they were prominently displayed this season.
Playing for the Avalon Wolves in the Orlando, Fla., Pop Warner League, Kern had another stellar campaign, connecting on 38 passes in 56 attempts for 525 yards and 10 touchdowns. While compiling a 115.0 QB Rating, he also used his speed and quickness to average 7.4 yards per rush.
Kern led the Wolves to a 9-3 record. “There were really a lot of good things that happened this season,” he said. “Every game, I try to do as well as possible and help us win. If I have a game that’s not so great, I try to set my goals higher for the next one.”
In the playoffs, Kern suffered a broken collarbone during a Wednesday game and was experiencing obvious pain. But with Avalon’s final playoff game scheduled for Saturday, he returned to practice the next day.
“I was just going to go to practice and encourage them and let them know I was all right,” Kern said. “It was our last practice before what most people say was the biggest game of the year. I was planning on just talking to the team, talking to my backup and saying, ‘Everything’s going to be just fine,’ and then I was going to go. But after watching practice I stayed and I tried to give our other quarterback some pointers and encouragement. I tried to get him ready for the next game.”
The Wolves rallied around Kern’s courage and dedicated the final playoff game to their injured quarterback. “It’s something I’ll never forget,” Kern said. “I wasn’t going to stay long, but I felt it was important to be there and I’m glad I did.”
Kern is also glad he’s been attending NFA camps the past four years. In addition to helping Avalon to a big season, Kern was the starting quarterback for Team Florida in the Future Stars Game, the starting QB for Team South in the NPFA Top 100 Game, the starter for Sixth Grade Central Florida FBU Competition team, and he also played for the seventh grade FBU Competition Team this year despite being less than 100 percent with the collarbone injury.
An NFA Passio Award Winner in the Orlando camp, Kern also finished second in the Duel of the Dozens this past summer in Ohio. “To do that well at the Duel, it really boosted my confidence high,” Kern said. “Going into the season, I just felt like I could go on the field and there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish. The Duel was a lot of fun, and doing so well really helped me improve as a quarterback.”