At 19 years of age, Rex Kern was the Rose Bowl MVP after he lead his unbeaten Ohio State Buckeyes to a 27-16 win over the top ranked USC Trojans and Heisman winner OJ Simpson.
Rex Kern had always been something of a legend around the state of Ohio.
As a high school student, Rex Kern played football, basketball and baseball. He was exceptional in all three of them at Lancaster, Ohio.
He was drafted by the Kansas City A’s out of high school.
In basketball, he was offered by the great John Wooden from UCLA, North Carolina and all of the basketball powers. He wanted to play basketball at Ohio State. A lot of Ohio kids grew up idolizing John Havlicek who played with Jerry Lucas at Ohio State and they won the national championship in 1960.
John Wooden won 10 national championships in 12 years at UCLA and he knew a thing or two about basketball talent and if he wanted Rex Kern he must have been good.
North Carolina is North Carolina. They have always been one of the best basketball programs in the country and this level of program only goes after what they consider the best.
Woody Hayes wanted Rex Kern badly to play Quarterback, but agreed to let Kern play both football and basketball for the Buckeyes.
Lancaster is about a 45 minute drive from Columbus and naturally it would be the perfect fit for Rex Kern to continue his football, or basketball, or even baseball career.
Kern was so good at baseball that the then Kansas City Athletics drafted him out of high school.
In spite of the numerous opportunities, Kern eventually decided to stay near home and play at Ohio State.
As I have written about on numerous occasions, Rex Kern was a member of the Super Sophomores. During his freshman season, Kern Quarterbacked the freshman team and then played on the freshman basketball team. In basketball, he injured his back.
The summer of 1968 was called by some the Summer of Love, but for Rex Kern it was the Summer of Surgery. He had surgery on his back in June of 1968 and then was the starting Quarterback for the Buckeyes that season.
Of course, in those years, football didn’t even start until about the last weekend of September.
Kern had no recurring back problems that season as he started for the Buckeyes all year.
Woody Hayes was a task master, but he had a special relationship with Rex Kern even allowing Kern the freedom to call his own plays and change plays on the field. Hayes didn’t let just anyone do that. It paid off with the Buckeyes going unbeaten and winning the national championship over USC.
The Super Sophomores were the talk of the nation and would have two more seasons to win another title or two.
But, those pesky Michigan Wolverines had something to say about that as they upset the Buckeyes, 24-12 and they won the Big 10 championship. Kern had a terrible game and he and his back up Ron Maciejowski threw 6 Interceptions between them.
After that, Woody clamped down on Kern and his play calling.
It was feast or famine in the Big 10 Conference back in these years. Only the Big 10 champion could go to a bowl game and that was the Rose Bowl. Then, there was the no repeat rule where the same team could not go two years in a row.
Even if Ohio State had beaten Michigan, they would not have gone to a bowl game in 1969.
Ohio State went undefeated again in 1970 and got their revenge over Michigan.
Rex Kern and Ohio State had one more chance at a national title. But, they were stunned in Pasadena by Stanford and Heisman winning Quarterback Jim Plunkett.
Rex Kern and his fellow Super Sophomores finished up their college years at 27-2.
The Baltimore Colts drafted Kern in the 10th round and he played Defensive Back for them.
He played a lot as a rookie, but his back injury flared up again as a second year guy.
He did play well again in his third season, but was traded to the Buffalo Bills after that. He played a few games in 1974 in Buffalo, but he retired during the season.
Presumably, his back would not let him continue playing football.
After his playing days were over, Kern did well for himself because he earned 3 degrees from Ohio State