• Tanner Kern

Why Playing the Offensive Line Shaped me into the Person I am Today

I played football for 12 years and a significant portion of this time was spent on the offensive line. The five offensive linemen are the most critical pieces in a football puzzle, but remain undervalued by many people who watch the sport. In youth football, not many kids want to be offensive linemen because everyone wants to score touchdowns so it takes a special individual to stick their hand in the dirt on the line of scrimmage. Glory doesn't come easily on the line because the big guys aren't the ones bringing the football over the goal line, but there are many lessons that become instilled within every person who was an offensive lineman in their playing days. Because of this fact, I wouldn't have traded being a quarterback for my years spent on the line with some of the best dudes I've ever met in my life.



Toughness is a critical characteristic of an offensive lineman and you learn this immediately. This obviously includes physical toughness because linemen are the only position on the field where a collision is guaranteed on every snap. When someone is kicking your butt, you can't fold. You have to get back up and keep hammering to the best of your ability. You're going to get bumps and bruises, but you need to be tough enough to push through the pain and continue doing your job. I learned physical toughness in my sophomore year of high school when I was no longer the biggest or strongest person on the field. I took a lot of shots from the upperclassmen, but without this pain I wouldn't have developed into the offensive lineman I became as I progressed in my career.


Mental toughness is just as important to playing the offensive line as physical toughness. Our mind controls the body and how we respond to pain. I've learned along the journey that the mind will quit before the body 100% of the time so it is key to be mentally strong. I learned mental toughness at all levels of football because there was always a time when I didn't think I could do one more rep, but I persevered and found my new limit.


Offensive line toughness is critical after football because one thing that hits harder than any defensive lineman is life. Without the physical and mental toughness I learned in my twelve years of football, I wouldn't have been able to lose 140 pounds, run a marathon, or deal with the adversity I've been dealt since my playing days ended.



On the offensive line, the protector mentality is quickly instilled. The job of an offensive lineman is to keep the quarterback clean and open up holes for the backs to gain yardage. The way you do this is by literally moving a defender against their will away from your men. This isn't easy to do because the defenders job is to get to the quarterback and tackle whoever has the ball. A good offensive lineman does whatever it takes to prevent this from happening and because of this you learn protection for the rest of your life. I learned protection when I played left tackle because my job was to keep the defensive end away from the blindside of the quarterback and I would do whatever it took to prevent a sack. There were moments when I lost which made me realize what it was like to let someone down, but this only made me take more pride in protecting my teammates.


Through the offensive line, I learned to protect what I love. I will do anything to protect the people, beliefs, and possessions I love to keep them safe. I learned this from keeping quarterbacks upright.



On the offensive line, you're only as good as your next snap. You may dominate a defender or keep them away from your quarterback, but that's your job. People expect that out of you. On the offensive line, you're only as good as the next snap because consistency is key. You can't get a big ego and you have to continue doing your job every single play. I learned this in many games throughout my career. I may get the best of someone one play, but the next they end up beating me. This has happened to every OL.


In relationships, business, and pretty much every single facet of life you're only as good as your next interaction. It's not what you did for me yesterday, it's what you do for me today. When we rest on our laurels, we will get beat on that next snap. The OL taught me to take every task seriously because what you did prior no longer matters.


On the offensive line, you need to overcome adversity that may or may not be your fault. If you dwell on the hard times, it won't change the outcome of the game. You need to keep hammering no matter what happens. If you get beat individually, you have to turn the page and move on. If a skilled position or fellow lineman messes up you can't point fingers. You need to keep doing your job. I learned this when our offense drove 90 yards in 16 plays and our running back fumbled on the opponent's 5 yard line. It hurt because everything we had done didn't result in points, but we had to get back up and continue doing our job the next time we got the ball.


Life is going to throw adversity at you when you least expect it. It may hit you or someone else in your life. I never thought we'd fumble on the 5 the way the drive was going, but we had to deal with it and move forward. On the offensive line, I learned that I can't dwell on the adversity I'm dealt in life. I just need to find a way to breakthrough on the other side.


On the offensive line, I learned what teamwork and communication really meant. On the OL, if one person doesn't do their job the play usually isn't successful. 5 guys need to work as 1 and this takes great communication. It's a unit where everyone needs to be on the same page and understand the task at hand. It doesn't matter how you feel about the guy next to you personally, but what does matter is that you work together to get the job done for your team. I've played on good lines, bad lines, and decent lines during my twelve years of football, but the best units in my career communicated and played as one.


In life, we need to know how to work in a team environment. We need to learn how to put differences aside and do what it takes to accomplish the mission. Without the offensive line, I wouldn't understand how critical teamwork is and how to successfully communicate your message to others to accomplish a goal.



The offensive line has done a lot for me, but the best thing that its given me is the dudes I met along the journey. Offensive linemen are special guys because they don't ask for the glory. When the clock hits 00:00 and an OL looks up at the scoreboard all they care about is that they know they laid it on the line for the success of the team. I may be biased, but the best guys in football are the OL for this reason.


To everyone I lined up next to in my career, I appreciate you and thank you for helping me learn why the offensive line is such a special position and a great way to prepare for the toughest defender of all: LIFE.




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Tanner Kern is a 22 year old coach, runner, and blogger from Connecticut. He is the host of The Tanner Kern Podcast and creator of "It's a Process: A Blog About Life, Running, and Everything in Between."

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