Duel champ Michael Kern thrives on pressure


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.

JV starter

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.”

NFA veteran

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.”


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Scot Gregor is an award-winning sportswriter for the Chicago Daily Herald. In addition to writing about Big 10 and Notre Dame football, Gregor has also covered the White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and college basketball. He grew up in Pittsburgh and watched the Steelers rise to prominence in the 1970s. Gregor has a B.S. degree in Journalism from Ohio University