Sports have shown the best from some athletes and the not-so-best from others. Sporting events may require the best from athletes in magnanimous events or situations. For athletes in a sport, having a certain jersey number can bring out the best in their abilities. This story involves the Tennessee Titans #6 jersey and two athletes who play different positions.
The incumbent of the Tennessee Titans #6 jersey is the team’s punter, Brett Kern. Kern was initially signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent, despite being a Ray Guy Award finalist for the 2007 NCAA season. For the undrafted free agent to win the job, he had to defeat Sam Palescu, who played for Denver in 2007. After winning the job, Kern had 46 punts for an average of 46.7 yards during his rookie year. His longest was 64 yards vs. San Diego and only surrendered one touchdown (Johnny Lee Higgins for Oakland) in the regular season.
At the time of his waiving by Denver in 2009, Kern had the 3rd highest yards per punt average in history and is currently tied for 12th among all punters. The Broncos were (6-0) at the time of Kern‘s waiving. Kern‘s skills were valued, as he did not clear waivers, by the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee was (0-6) heading into the bye week at the time of Kern‘s arrival. The Titans started with 5 straight wins and went (8-2) after the bye week to close the season at (8-8). Subsequently, Denver went (2-8) after the bye week and Kern‘s waiving. Kern has not shown signs of losing his competitive spirit, but arm-wrestling would not be perceived as an advantage for a punter.
The challenger for the #6 jersey number is newly-signed free agent quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Whitehurst has worn the #6 throughout his collegiate and professional career, and he plans on wearing it in Tennessee. Whitehurst was drafted in the 3rd round (81st overall) out of Clemson by the San Diego Chargers. He played his first stint in San Diego from 2006-2009. Whitehurst then signed with the Seattle Seahawks and played there in (2010-2011). Whitehurst was the quarterback who led the Seahawks (6-9) for the injured Matthew Hasselbeck in the “win-or-out” Week 17 victory against the 7-8 St. Louis Rams for NFC West championship. On 32 attempted passes, Whitehurst threw for 192 yards and a touchdown in Seattle‘s 16-6 victory.
Hasselbeck returned for the NFC Wild Card matchup against the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints at CenturyLink Field. Marshawn Lynch provided the beginning of “Beast Mode” with an emphatic run of the ages fueled by the Twelfth Man.
If you have not seen the run, here it is:
Whitehurst then had his second stint in San Diego from (2012-2013) as backup to Philip Rivers. Whitehurst then signed with Tennessee earlier this offseason.
Many fans would think, “a punter only focuses on their legs, so he won’t win.” Confirmation of the arm-wrestling loss is provided by Charlie Whitehurst himself via Instagram.
Kern‘s victory over Whitehurst proves that punters, kickers, and other members of special teams should be considered football players. Punting a football does require skill and accuracy, but seeing a punter track down a return specialist after the rest of his teammates miss is a great display to all fans (excluding if the punter catches the viewer’s return specialist). Punters like New York Giants‘ Steve Weatherford focus on punting but also being athletic enough to be football players. What this contest shows is that special teams cannot be demeaned and can be the life or death of a team. Special teams is no longer a “minor” aspect of the game. Kern should be praised for keeping up with his production on and off the field, but the NFL (and its fans) love to focus on quarterbacks.