“I can’t keep living my life like this,” Tennessee Titans’ Punter Brett Kern thought to himself. He was throwing up in a bathroom at a party after a heavy night of drinking while at the University of Toledo.
It was in this moment that the seeds were planted for a complete 180 in his life; one that would change Brett’s perspective on life and affect his football career and his faith.
Brett Kern, the Tennessee Titans’ three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro punter, joined Noah and Bjorn for this week’s episode to talk about how he turned his faith, and life, around.
Brett Realized at Toledo He Needed to Make a Change in His Life
“I was a lost sheep just trying to fit in, and I was trying to fit in in the wrong places”--Brett Kern
Brett didn’t always think he was going to find himself in the position he’s in. While many NFL players have played football since they can remember, Brett didn’t start playing until his sophomore year of high school. On the podcast he talks about why he didn’t get into football until that point.
However, Brett quickly realized that God blessed him with a great talent, and he had a chance to play college football.
After attending some camps, he received a full scholarship from the University of Toledo.
Brett grew up in a Christian household and accepted Christ when he was 6. However, he says that he didn’t have a full understanding and never made his faith his own. He went through middle school and high school coasting when it came to his relationship with God.
In the episode, Brett talks about the challenges college presented to his faith. Like many college students experience, he found that he could now make his own decisions, such as whether or not to go to church.
He says that he was looking to fit in and ended up trying to do so in the wrong places. His first two years at Toledo, Brett became heavily involved with drinking and partying.
One night while partying, he drank too much and got sick. This led Brett to a realization - he couldn’t keep living his life like this.
Brett says he realized he was wasting the talent God blessed him with and that he needed to take his life in the opposite direction.
Brett Leaned on Those Around Him at Toledo To Strengthen His Faith
“I had to be accountable to somebody … to really change my life around, I needed to be honest”--Brett Kern
The first thing Brett did after deciding he needed to turn his life around was call his dad. His dad is a former professional soccer player and knows the challenges to faith that are presented by the culture surrounding high level sports.
Brett’s dad recommended finding a mentor. Brett reached out to Tom Frazier, a local pastor, and met with him every other week. Brett says that Tom was instrumental in the development of his faith.
For the first time since he had been to college, Brett had someone around that would hold him accountable. Brett realized that in order to make the change in his life he was seeking, he would have to be completely honest.
Brett says he also started attending church again and diving into God’s word. Not just doing short devotionals, but really spending significant time in the Bible according to Brett.
Brett’s changes went beyond just these things - it was a total life change. On the podcast he goes into depth about everything he changed about his life and the differences he noticed both off the field and on.
In the NFL Brett has Learned More About His Faith and Become a Leader
“You try to make an impact as much as you can while you’re around your teammates”--Brett Kern
One of the very first lessons Brett learned in the NFL was to trust God and his timing. He signed with the Denver Broncos in 2008 as an undrafted free agent and then was cut after less than two full years on the team.
While this was a nerve-racking experience at the time, Brett says he realized the timing was perfect. It gave him time to focus on his relationship with his wife and family, which Brett describes on the podcast as lacking at the time. It also coincided with a need the Tennessee Titans had at the time for a punter, where he has been playing ever since.
Brett says his desire to live out his faith led him to dive even further into the Bible, reading it all the way through in 2016. This is something he has done every year since then.
Brett doesn’t just want to keep his faith to himself, but also wants to affect the lives of those around him. Brett says that gaining a deeper understanding of the Bible has helped him be more equipped to remain consistent in his faith and have meaningful conversations with his teammates.
Brett has had the opportunities to lead team chapels and prayer sessions before games and can see the impact he’s had on others. On the podcast, Brett talks about how he helped one of the teammates he’s closest with form a relationship with God.
Another thing Brett has realized during his time in the NFL is that in order to truly have an impact on his teammates, he has to be a great leader. He has been on the same team as some NFL legends, such as John Lynch, Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins. These players were able to set an example for Brett early in his career of what great leadership looks like.
In the episode, Brett talks about what he learned from these teammates, how he’s developed his own leadership style and how it has affected how he displays his faith.
These are just a few of the lessons that Brett has learned about his faith and leadership. On the podcast, Brett goes a lot more in-depth about what else he has learned and how it has affected his life.
What is God Teaching You?
Brett has such a powerful story. God blessed him with tremendous talent, but for a long time he wasn’t using it to glorify God. However, instead of remaining stubborn in his ways, Brett realized he needed to make a change in his life.
This is something that is easier said than done. It can be an extremely humbling experience to admit that you need to change how you’re living your life and bring yourself before God.
However, God is always going to be there with open arms to accept us. He isn’t going to judge us or look down on us. He wants an intimate relationship with us and will instead rejoice that we’ve come to Him.
Changing how you’re living your life can be hard to actually do. Brett’s story highlights the importance of having a mentor - someone who will hold you accountable and force you to be honest with both yourself and them.
None of us are ever going to have all of the answers and we will likely falter on our way to a relationship with God. By having a mentor, we can have an additional person to lean on that can answer our questions and keep us on the right path.
Fellowship is extremely important. While God wants our main priority to be Him, He also wants us to have positive relationships on Earth with people that are beneficial to our faith.
A mentor can help us progress in our faith, make it our own and progress to becoming a leader for others, like Brett did.
One of the biggest lessons we can learn from Brett is that we should never be satisfied. We should constantly be reevaluating ourselves. We should also be a sponge, observing those around us and thinking about what we can do to improve ourselves, our relationship with God and help others form their own relationship with God.
When we do this, we will see our relationship with God reach another level and make a sizable difference in His kingdom.
Are you humbling yourself before God? Do you have mentors?
Are you trying to grow in your faith, or have you grown content?
1 Peter 4:10-11
2 Peter 3:18
To hear the conversation that Brett Kern had with Noah and Bjorn about how he started playing football, how he turned his life and faith around, what life in the NFL is like and much more, check out “The Sweat Room: Sports and Faith” episode 54.
“The Sweat Room: Sports and Faith” is a podcast based out of Hamburg, New York, that was started in May of 2020 to discuss faith and its intersection with sports. Noah Corsten and Bjorn Webb co-host the podcast, interviewing both past and current athletes and coaches about how faith plays a role in their life. “The Sweat Room” is a part of Watermark Wesleyan Church’s Sports & Fitness Ministry. The podcast can be found on the website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and wherever you stream your podcasts.