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Codi Childs | NCAA.com | September 1, 2022

Everything to know about Jared Bernhardt, former Maryland lacrosse and DII football star

NCAA lacrosse POY dominates in 2021 DII football championship

As the final minutes of the Atlanta Falcons' first 2022 NFL preseason game wound down, an unlikely hero emerged to be the driving force for victory. Down three and in need of a touchdown to take the lead, quarterback Desmond Ridder completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to the sixth string receiver on the depth chart: Jared Bernhardt.

But this wideout, whose only reception in Week 1 of preseason action was the touchdown catch, is no stranger to big stages and unbelievable storylines. On Tuesday, Bernhardt officially made the Falcons' initial 53-man roster.

Most NFL preseason rosters are filled with recent draft picks and former DI football talent, but what many do not know is that Jared Bernhardt doesn’t belong to either of these categories. His journey to the league includes a long stretch as one of the top college lacrosse players in the country and a run to a DII football national championship as a star quarterback.

Bernhardt, who played quarterback in high school, shined as a two-sport athlete at Lake Brantley High School in Longwood, Florida. He excelled as the field general during his last two seasons at Lake Brantley, racking up over 4,000 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns, while dominating as an attack on the lacrosse field with 434 career points on 236 goals and 198 assists.  

In a 2021 interview with NCAA.com's Wayne Cavadi, Bernhardt explained his initial decision to pursue lacrosse over football in college despite his high school successes in both. “I didn’t think I’d have much opportunity to play football,” Bernhardt said. “Some opportunities came up and I had to have some discussions with my family. But ultimately I chose lacrosse.”

Here's a deeper look at Bernhardt's unusual and impressive success at different sports.

A record setting career at Maryland

Maryland Athletics Jared Bernhardt leads attack at Maryland Bernardt becomes all-time great in Maryland lacrosse program

As the third-ranked recruit in his class, Bernhardt committed to Maryland and made an immediate impact on the squad as a freshman, helping the Terrapins to a 2017 national championship. And in the years to follow, Bernhardt would put together one of the best college careers the sport has ever seen.

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Every DI men's lacrosse champion

He led the Big Ten in man-up goals as a sophomore and moved up the ranks to the program’s second all-time goals leader as a junior before starting a promising senior season that would ultimately be cut short due to the pandemic.

However, his redshirt-senior season was one for the record books. Literally. 

During his fifth year as a Terp, Bernhardt amassed the greatest individual offensive season in the history of Maryland lacrosse. On his road to capturing the 2021 Tewaaraton Award, which is given annually to the top male and female college lacrosse players in the country, the phenom charted 99 points, 71 goals, and 28 assists on the season while being named Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year and earning first-team All-American accolades from multiple outlets; he would also go on to finish atop Maryland’s career points and career goals list. 

TEWAARATON AWARD: A full history of college lacrosse's highest honor

But Bernhardt wasn't done winning titles and accolades. He traded a stick for pigskin, going up to Michigan to play football at Division II Ferris State. 

Bernhardt soars as Ferris State's QB1

USA Lacrosse Magazine Jared Bernhardt shines as Ferris State QB Jared Bernhardt compiles over 2,700 all-purpose yards in his season at Ferris State University

After beating out the team’s seasoned QBs for the starting role, the former Tewaaraton Award winner would go on to lead the Bulldogs to an undefeated season and the program’s first-ever national championship. Bernhardt passed for 1,322 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 1,421 yards and 26 touchdowns in his first — and only — college football season, nabbing GLIAC Player of the Year honors.

Perhaps part of Bernhardt's success on the gridiron was his ability to draw some parallels between football and lacrosse.

“The decision making — both are pretty fast, so you try to make quick decisions,” Bernhardt said of how lacrosse is helping him adjust. “I’m not up to par, there’s different coverages, whereas lacrosse I had time to build my IQ. I’m trying to grow and learn along the way."

What also helps is that Bernhardt is a freak athlete and a hard-working talent. 

Following Ferris State’s incredible season, the now 24-year old set his sights on the pros. Bernhardt put up impressive numbers at the draft combine clocking in at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash; he also charted a 32-inch vertical. Despite these metrics, the quarterback turned wide receiver ultimately went undrafted in the 2022 NFL Draft before signing a priority free agent contract with the Falcons this offseason. 

GOING PRO: DII football players selected in the 2022 NFL draft

From Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders to Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray, the NFL has seen its fair share of athletes who’ve previously excelled in two sports before solidifying their legacy as football players. Lacrosse phenoms turned NFL stars begins with Jim Brown and John Mackey and ends with names you’ve likely never heard of. 

Now Bernhardt is making a name while charting his own path, from DI men's lacrosse star to DII football national champion.

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