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Eagles' Kerns lands at Cornell

April 15, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

Hedgesville senior Brandon Kerns did it all, both on the football field and in the classroom. Now he'll get to do it at one of the country's most prestigious universities.

Kerns has signed a letter of intent to play football for Cornell, a Division I-AA program. Athletics is, of course, only one half of the equation. Kerns, who's at the head of his high school class, will major in engineering at the Ivy League school.

"It's one of the top five engineering schools in the country," Kerns said Wednesday in a phone interview. As for where his heart is, "this may not be the best to say, but probably athletics. That's my passion. But I'm proud of my academics."

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"He's one of those kids that will be hard to replace," Eagles coach Dave Lopez said Monday. "He was a good leader, and he did the right thing on and off the field. We stress being the best kid academically you can be, and Brandon's that type of guy, not a rah-rah guy. He did his job in practice, did his job on Friday nights and did his job Monday through Friday in the classroom, and that's the kind of guy who's hard to replace."

Kerns, who played split end and defensive back for Hedgesville, was spurned on to athletic - and unintentionally, academic - success as a freshman.

"Somebody told me I was too small, and that just drove me to develop my skills and work as hard as I could," he said. "It's the same in the classroom, I just decided I wasn't going to let anybody get better grades than me."

While compiling a grade-point average better than 4.0, Kerns excelled between the lines in 2003, averaging 21 yards per catch. He was also a weapon on special teams, returning two kickoffs, a punt and a blocked field goal for touchdowns, including a game-winning kickoff return against Rockville.

Kerns, which was also recruited by Harvard and Brown, had to wait for Cornell to hire a new coach. Once Jim Knowles took the job in late January, Kerns made his official visit to the campus and left impressed.

"I liked the atmosphere," Kerns said. "Everybody's more down to Earth there."

Kerns will participate in the North-South game - West Virginia's prep all-star football contest - in June. It will mark the end of his high school days as the door opens on the next chapter - one for which Kerns is thankful to Lopez for.

"He's a great coach, and even though we didn't have the greatest season, he always made sure we were doing the right thing on and off the field," Kerns said. "He really had a lot of faith in me in the off-season, and he pushed me really hard to work on my skills. I owe a lot to him."

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