Kern playing for the Colts in 1971
|Date of birth||May 28, 1949|
|Place of birth||Lancaster, Ohio|
|NFL draft||1971 / Round: 10 / Pick 260|
Rex William Kern (born May 28, 1949) is a former American football player. He played quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes from 1968 to 1970, and played professional football in the National Football League at defensive back for the Baltimore Colts and Buffalo Bills. Kern was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
Kern was the leader of the so-called Super Sophomores, guiding the Buckeyes to an undefeated season and a consensus national championship in 1968. Kern and the other Super Sophomores finished their college careers with a record of 27-2. Kern was a fine passer and a dangerous runner. In the 1968, 1969 and 1970 seasons, Kern ran for 583, 524, and 597 yards respectively—high numbers for a Big Ten quarterback.
The son of a barber, Kern was a star three-sport athlete for Lancaster High School in Lancaster, Ohio, graduating in 1967. He was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics, and was offered basketball scholarships to UCLA, North Carolina, and Ohio University. However Kern had long sought to play basketball for Fred Taylor of Ohio State and had fostered a relationship with Taylor that led to a scholarship offer.
During the recruiting process, he was also recruited by Woody Hayes and committed to Ohio State to play both sports.
Kern quarterbacked the 1967 freshman team, which included 11 high school All-Americans, but suffered a back injury playing freshman basketball. Despite back surgery in June, Kern recovered in time to be named first string quarterback for the varsity football team ahead of senior Bill Long, who had quarterbacked the Buckeyes in 1967.
The 1968 team, nicknamed the "Super Sophomores", shut out the top-ranked Purdue Boilermakers on October 12 and went on to an undefeated season, a Big Ten championship, and a berth in the 1969 Rose Bowl. Kern was named Most Outstanding Player in the bowl as Ohio State defeated O. J. Simpson and the USC Trojans, 27-16, and were named consensus national champions.
In 1969 the Buckeyes were expected to repeat as national champions. Kern directed a high-scoring (averaging 46 points per game) junior-dominated Buckeye offense that cruised through its first eight games. But Kern and the Buckeyes were devastated by a 24-12 loss at Michigan, a game in which Kern threw four interceptions. Despite the loss, Ohio State finished as Big Ten co-champions with Michigan and Kern was third in balloting for the 1969 Heisman Trophy. He was also named a first-team All-American.
The super sophomores, now seniors, rebounded in 1970 to again win the Big Ten, gaining revenge against Michigan. The Buckeyes finished the 1970 season undefeated, earning them their second trip to the Rose Bowl in 3 years. However, they lost to the Stanford Indians, who were led by Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett. Kern, captain of the 1970 team, finished fifth on the 1970 Heisman ballot.
Kern was drafted in the 10th Round of the 1971 NFL Draft by the NFL champion Baltimore Colts. Playing cornerback and safety, he participated in all fourteen games of his rookie season of 1971, but only five in 1972 after a recurrence of his back injury. He recovered to play a full season in 1973, making two interceptions, but was traded to Buffalo, where he played 8 games in 1974 before retiring for medical reasons.
Kern earned three degrees from Ohio State, a baccalaureate, a master's, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education. He credited his success to his education, and his education to Woody Hayes, with whom he had a lifelong friendship. In 2001, he created the Anne and Woody Hayes Endowment for the prevention of child abuse to Columbus Children's Hospital.
Jim Tressel and Jeff Snook, What It Means To Be A Buckeye, "Rex Kern 1968–70", Triumph Books 2003, ISBN 1-57243-602-6