Former Maryland lacrosse star Jared Bernhardt makes Falcons’ roster


As a result of this season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” focuses on the Lions, when viewers noticed Atlanta’s Jared Bernhardt make a game-winning catch against Detroit in a preseason sport, they heard his identify however realized no additional details about him. If the favored program had been as an alternative shining a highlight on the Falcons, Bernhardt virtually actually would have been a central character, given the exceptional nature of his journey to the workforce.

On Tuesday, that story arc bought even higher when the 24-year-old large receiver earned a spot on the Falcons’ preliminary 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent.

It was the newest unlikely accomplishment for Bernhardt, whose one season of school soccer got here final 12 months as a quarterback for Division II Ferris State, which he helped to a 14-0 file and its first nationwide championship.

Jared Bernhardt was a lacrosse star at Maryland. Now he’s a championship quarterback.

Earlier than that, Bernhardt authored a legendary profession as a lacrosse participant at Maryland, the place in 2017 he helped the Terrapins win their first nationwide title in 42 years. In 2021, after main the nation in scoring and breaking college information, Bernhardt gained the Tewaaraton Award — lacrosse’s model of the Heisman Trophy.

Lower than 15 months later, he’s on the verge of beginning an NFL season with one of many league’s 32 groups, at a place whose nuances he’s solely starting to grasp.

Bernhardt was not accessible for remark Tuesday, however his brother mentioned the nascent large receiver’s response to the roster information was consistent with his even-keeled, businesslike demeanor.

“He’s not one to be too high; he’s never too low,” Jesse Bernhardt, an assistant males’s lacrosse coach at Maryland and a former standout participant in his personal proper, mentioned when reached by cellphone. Noting with a chuckle that it will possibly generally be “hard to tell” how his youthful brother is feeling, he asserted: “I think that’s kind of what makes him him, and also is what has made him successful in a lot of his endeavors so far. He just has that calmness, that poise to him, regardless of the situation.”

Of the expectations that Bernhardt may flip his alternative with the Falcons into an NFL job, Jesse mentioned: “Most people who know him well in our family thought he could do it, but it’s a jump. … To sit here and say that I thought it was a reality, I’d probably be lying.”

Relations knew Bernhardt would give his all to the soccer dream and, given his previous achievements, weren’t inclined to underestimate his probabilities of making it occur. Nonetheless, Jesse acknowledged, a spot on an NFL workforce’s observe squad gave the impression to be a much more believable objective when his brother adopted his season at Ferris State by returning to Maryland this spring to take part within the Terrapins’ professional day in entrance of scouts and NFL executives.

Not surprisingly, Bernhardt went undrafted, however he caught the eye of a number of groups and ultimately agreed to hitch the Falcons. Atlanta Coach Arthur Smith, who attended highschool at D.C.-area lacrosse energy Georgetown Prep, mentioned in June that he had “a bunch of buddies telling me about [Bernhardt].”

Following Bernhardt’s heroics towards Detroit, Smith mentioned: “You can see his spatial awareness as he went to box a guy up to get to the top of the route. So, I’m excited to keep working with him.”

“I’ll say it’s been pretty eye-opening,” the coach added, “to see how quickly he’s made the transition.”

Whereas noting that his brother had performed loads of soccer from kindergarten by way of highschool in Florida, Jesse mentioned it additionally helped to have performed top-tier faculty lacrosse. He echoed Smith’s evaluation of his brother’s “spatial awareness” and mentioned he was additionally expert at “getting open and playing off some contact.”

“It’s a very fluid sport,” Jesse, whose different brother Jake can also be on the Terrapins’ teaching workers, mentioned of lacrosse, “so decision-making and things of that nature happen extremely fast. I’m sure he was able to fall back on some of those traits.”

One other help of types from his former sport got here by the use of Chris Hogan, a former Penn State lacrosse star who performed one season of school soccer at Monmouth. Hogan then went from being an undrafted free agent large receiver to having fun with a nine-season profession within the NFL that included two Tremendous Bowl championships with the New England Patriots.

Hogan “has been great” to Bernhardt, who was “able to utilize him as a resource to expedite that process [of transitioning to wide receiver],” Jesse mentioned.

Bernhardt adopted his game-winning catch in Detroit with a efficiency towards the New York Jets by which he led all gamers with 67 receiving yards on three catches. Jesse and a number of other different members of his household, which he mentioned has roots on Lengthy Island, had been on the Jets’ MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to cheer him on.

Tragically unable to hitch them was the brothers’ father, Jim, a former assistant coach with the Houston Texans who died in 2019. “He would have definitely been proud,” Jesse mentioned of his father, who performed soccer and lacrosse at Hofstra earlier than beginning his teaching profession there and transferring on to stints at Brown, Central Florida and Penn State.

After rising up round soccer, the Bernhardt brothers perceive higher than most that “it still is a business and things could change on a dime,” Jesse mentioned. That has performed into the comparatively tempered response to Tuesday’s information by his brother, who is just not assured to nonetheless be on the 53-man roster when the Falcons’ season kicks off Sept. 11 towards rival New Orleans.

If Bernhardt’s NFL trajectory begins to falter, or if he simply has a change of coronary heart about his most popular skilled sport, Jesse mentioned he wouldn’t be shocked to see his brother within the Premier Lacrosse League.

“I’m sure if he wanted to,” Jesse mentioned, “I think like everything else he’s probably proven that he could.”

“It’s probably not a whole lot on his brain right now, though,” the older sibling added with amusing. “I think he’s just trying to figure out where the heck he’s going to live.”

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