Titans punter Brett Kern wanted to be a storm chaser. Now it’s helping his NFL career

Erik Bacharach
The Tennessean
Titans punter Brett Kern (6) kicks a punt during the second quarter at TIAA Bank Field Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.

Periods of cold rain, sustained winds around 20 mph from the east-northeast, and gusts of up to 30-40 mph. Hardly a punter’s paradise.

The detailed report from @NashSevereWx, a Twitter account with about 156,000 followers accomplished two things: First and foremost, it gave Brett Kern an accurate, reliable assessment of the dicey conditions to expect at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Dec. 16, when the Titans played the Giants.

Two, it tugged at one of Kern’s lifelong passions.

Yeah, there was always the dream of making it as a punter in the NFL, but there was also the interest in becoming a storm chaser — as in one of those meteorologists who tracks and follows tornadoes, hurricanes and other terrifying natural phenomena, all in the name of science.

Punting seemed safer.

“I told my wife when we first met in college that I was thinking about becoming a storm chaser,” Kern said ahead of the Titans’ game against the Indianapolis Colts on “Sunday Night Football” (7:20 p.m. CT, NBC) at Nissan Stadium. “She said if we want to start a family and have kids, you're not doing that. So that ended pretty quickly.”

The two-time Pro Bowl punter’s passion for weather, though, has persisted. And his punting is better for it.

Complementary passions

To the north was Lake Ontario. To the southwest was Lake Erie. And at the center was suburban Buffalo’s Grand Island High School, where Kern graduated in 2004.

“We had lake effect up there and a lot of different types of weather,” said Kern, who earned a degree in geography and urban development at Toledo but also dabbled plenty in meteorology. “So I've always been really, really interested in it. It's just a coincidence that weather plays an important part of punting."

It’s something he plans to pursue after football.

“I think it'd be probably more of a hobby than actually getting into weather on TV or something like that,” Kern said. “Maybe get some cool equipment in the basement and start my own Twitter account or something.”

In the meantime, he’s got eight apps on his iPhone — including a couple that he pays for, like RadarScope and MyRadar Pro — all geared toward preparing him for what to expect on game day. He’ll begin checking them with frequency about 48 hours before kickoff.

And then there is the fail-safe, personalized reports that Kern (and Titans kicker Ryan Succop) gets on Twitter from @NashSevereWx, like the one that helped him in East Rutherford.

“They do a really good job. Accurate, detailed,” Kern said. “A lot of different apps say a lot of different things, so if you can find one source that you really trust and they’re very accurate, they’re your go-to.”

Their history began innocently enough: After @NashSevereWx posted a weather outlook for a game at Nissan Stadium last season, Kern tweeted a thank-you message back. Nashville Severe Weather has been supplying kicking-specific forecasts for games ever since.

"I never would have imagined that I’d have the best punter in the world looking to us for information about wind speeds and temperature and other things they would use to help plan a kicking game,"  said David Drobny, one of three people who runs @NashSevereWx. Drobny, a lawyer who, like Kern, pursues meteorology as a hobby, created the Twitter handle in 2011.

"It's so cool to see. And frankly, his level of passion for it will help with his job, understanding the meteorology and understanding local weather effects because that’s going to do things to a football that if he understands it better than the other punter, he’s going to have an advantage."

Fighting the weather

Kern is on a tear, the type that gets a punter selected to his second consecutive Pro Bowl.

His last 10 punts have landed inside the 20, a streak that has helped fuel the Titans’  four-game winning streak. It's also the longest such streak of his career.

“We’d love for him to never have to do his job. We’d love for him to just stand over there and stay in the bullpen,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel joked. “But when he does, he’s done it very well, at Pro Bowl-caliber level.

“I can’t say enough about Brett.”

It begins with his preparation. Earlier this week, it looked like there might be rain in Sunday’s forecast (though now weather forecasts have mostly ruled out anything but perhaps a light sprinkle). So Kern’s preparation looked similar to the lead-up to the Giants game.

“When we got ready for the Giants, (long snapper Beau Brinkley), myself and Ryan (Succop), we just did a lot of wet ball drills,” Kern said. “Just getting the ball soaking wet, snapping them, kicking them, because kicking a wet ball is totally different than kicking a dry ball. The ball's a little heavier, it doesn't go as far, maybe doesn't hang as much, so you've got to be a little more careful when the ball's wet.”

Will it rain? Will there be any wetness to contend with at all? Only one thing is really guaranteed: Kern will have a better idea of what's coming than anyone in the building.

"The weather nerds of the world are out there, and I love that he’s part of it," said Drobny, who has never met Kern. "Maybe one day we should sit down and nerd out over weather data, but hopefully he’ll be busy here through the first week of February. We’ll have to put that off until some other time."

Reach Erik Bacharach at ebacharach@tennessean.com and on Twitter @ErikBacharach.

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