The first is his academic standing, which, while not awful by any means, has been somewhat short of the levels needed to be eligible as a freshman. With the Big East into its second year of prohibition of non-qualifiers, the pressure has been on Kerns to raise his core GPA and test scores to qualifying levels, as those that don't qualify will not be allowed to enroll on scholarship. To his credit, the record-setting back has been addressing that situation aggressively.
"I made the honor roll this past semester," Kerns said with evident pride. "I'm working really hard to improve my grades and my test score, and I think I can make it."
Kerns credits his mother, Tammy Thompson, for staying on him and emphasizing the importance of classroom performance.
"She is always checking on me," he admitted with a laugh as he discussed the reasons for his improvement.
Of course, Kerns himself deserves credit as well. Learning new study habits and skills might not be as demanding as juking a pair of tacklers, but it does require changes in mental discipline that aren't easy to ingrain. Kerns, it appears, has gotten the message that his considerable talent on the field might go to waste if he doesn't get his work done in the classroom, and is busily making up for missed opportunities.
The second challenge is an injured knee that knocked Kerns out of his senior season of football and left many wondering how it would affect his college chances. On this front, Kerns never wavered, but a long course of rehab is a daunting task for anyone to meet. When the injury that led to the session is as critical as a knee is to a running back, it doubles the mental challenge. However, the strongly-built runner thinks he is on track to overcome those obstacles on all fronts.
"I've been doing a lot of rehab, and I think I am about 80% right now," Kerns said as he took in West Virginia's spring football game. "It's coming along well. I do a lot of jogging, running and sprints, and am starting to move it around some. I think that by the summer I should be ready to go."
Once Kerns is pronounced fully healed and medically cleared to play, he will have one more wall to climb – getting hit on the field. He admits that is the last big step he will face in his recovery and rehabilitation period, but that he is looking forward to it. Just like the challenges he is currently facing, he plans on addressing them head on.