By the time Ohio State finally finished off Miami in overtime of
the Fiesta Bowl last January, 54-year-old Rex Kern was almost as
exhausted as the victorious Buckeyes. "I think I played every
play," says Kern, who was in the stands at Sun Devil Stadium in
Tempe, Ariz. "I was yelling at the top of my lungs to encourage
them because you only get [to a national championship game] maybe
one time in your life--and you can't quit."
Kern knows about championship-game opportunities. As an Ohio
State sophomore he had quarterbacked the Buckeyes to their last
national title before this one, in the 1968 Rose Bowl, and then
led two more teams into contention. As is the case this year, SI
predicted Ohio State would successfully defend its national title
in '69. That team, as well as the '70 squad, won its first nine
games and was ranked No. 1, only to lose its regular-season
finale to Michigan.
Although Kern, a native of Lancaster, Ohio, went on to play four
years in the NFL as a defensive back with the Baltimore Colts and
then the Buffalo Bills, his ties to Ohio State shaped his life.
Disk problems, which had first surfaced at Ohio State, ended his
football career in 1974. He returned to Columbus with the goal of
becoming a college athletic director and earned a master's degree
and a Ph.D. in education. However, a Columbus businessman who had
bought the rights to sell Nautilus equipment in California, John
Havens, hired Kern in 1976 to manage the business. Based in Santa
Barbara, Kern held that job for 18 years, all the while
contributing as much of his time as he could to Ohio State
In 1994 he moved back to Columbus and took a position in another
Havens family business, United Midwest Savings Bank. Three years
ago Kern was in an auto accident that further injured his back,
and he underwent surgery on his spine for the sixth time.
Two years ago Kern moved to Camarillo, Calif., with his wife,
Nancy, whom he met at that 1968 Rose Bowl. She was a Rose Bowl
princess who intended to enter USC the following fall. But after
the Kern-led Buckeyes beat the Trojans, he persuaded her to
enroll at Ohio State, and they married five years later. They
have two sons, John-Ryan, 27, and Michael, 24.
Still associated with the bank and active in the Ohio State
Alumni Association, Kern meets people all the time who, upon
hearing his name, remember that a quarterback named Rex Kern once
played in the Rose Bowl. "They'll ask if we're related," Kern
says, "and I tell them, 'It depends on whether you're from
Michigan or Ohio State.'" --Bill Syken
COLOR PHOTOMONTAGE: WALTER IOOSS JR (2); ART SHAY; SHEEDY & LONG; TONY TOMSIC (COVER) BUCKEYE FOREVER Kern (10) stayed true to his university.
COLOR PHOTO: TODD BIGELOW/AURORA [See caption above]
Winner of 27 of 29 starts at Ohio State, Kern played briefly in
the NFL before becoming a businessman and banker.