How the top college player in lacrosse became a rookie-free-agent signing with Atlanta Falcons – Atlanta Falcons blog

FLOWERY BRANCH – The three men met in Breezy Park in Huntington this offseason. They had 331 college crosse goals and shared a passion for football.

Chris Hogan was the more experienced player, having retired from a 10-year NFL tenure. Tom Kennedy He is about to enter his fourth season as an actor. Detroit Lions receiver. They were joined by one of the best college lacrosse players, who was looking to make the same transition as them.

Jared Bernhardt Maryland: Scored 202 goals, leading the Terrapins to the National Championship game on Memorial Day weekend 2021. He also won the Tewaaraton Trophy as the best player college lacrosse. Here he was on Long Island's field, spending the day running routes and taking advice from those who have done it.

Bernhardt aims to be like Hogan and Kennedy by moving from college crosse with a college soccer pit stop to the NFL as an undrafted-free agent with The Atlanta Falcons.

“It definitely gives you some hope,” Bernhardt said. “But you take it day by day.”

Bernhardt’s transition may be more difficult than Kennedy or Hogan. Kennedy stayed at Bryant and played three seasons of lacrosse and football at Bryant. Hogan moved from Penn State to Monmouth in 2010 for one football season. He played several positions, including receiver.

Bernhardt’s journey started with a recruitment to Navy as a triple-option quarterback, but he chose lacrosse at Maryland. His family is a college lacrosse coach and professional player. Jake and Jesse are his brothers. It is also a football family. Bernhardt’s father, Jim, had been a longtime college football coach before working for Bill O’Brien with the Houston Texans As director of football researcher.

Jim Bernhardt was later diagnosed with lymphoma. He passed away in 2019. Jim and Jared had discussed the possibility of Jim playing football after his lacrosse career. The idea was born.

Bernhardt started to plan for his 2020 college lacrosse season that fall and began to consider his football future. He visited Long Island University, Stony Brook, and Long Island University to see if they were interested in him as a receiver. Ferris State was also contacted by him, and he sent an email explaining why football is important to him to Tony Annese.

“He wanted to play college football to honor his dad, and that was his dream with his dad,” Annese said. “Everybody loves a good story, right? The film is the real story.

“My son [Ferris State offensive coordinator Steve Annese] watched the film and said, ‘You got to see this kid.’ Just popping in the film of his high school career as a quarterback, it was a no-brainer for me.”

Annese recruited Bernhardt as a quarterback. Bernhardt signed with Ferris State before even seeing the campus. He was about to complete his final lacrosse season. Annese asked Bernhardt if he would like to go first. Bernhardt was able to see enough of the area on film, despite having to Google map Big Rapids (Michigan) initially. He would then switch to football after he had played lacrosse one more time.

Sixteen games into the COVID-19 pandemic, college sports were dead. Bernhardt decided that his lacrosse career was done. He started preparing for football. Then, in the summer, he found out Ferris State’s football season was canceled. Bernhardt returned to Florida, where he trained for football.

Except he wasn’t quite done with lacrosse. John Tillman, the Maryland coach offered him an opportunity to return. Bernhardt initially was not open to the idea. He discovered that he was missing lacrosse.

“I was probably a little bit more surprised that he actually came back to play lacrosse,” said Jesse Bernhardt, who is an assistant at Maryland. “I wasn’t sure. I think there was part of him that was almost ready to close that chapter.”

He was the Maryland's greatest offensive player and set school record for goals (202) as well as points (290), which he then finished. He led the Terrapins into the national championship, but they were defeated by Virginia.

All season, he studied Ferris’ spring football film. He reached out to Annese after the title game and said he was ready to go. Annese advised him to take a rest before he returned in June.

Annese didn't know who would be her quarterback at that time. The first quarter was over, and Bernhardt had already rushed for three touchdowns vs Findlay. There were no more questions.

Ferris State won the Division II national title and went undefeated. Bernhardt, a dual threat quarterback who was limited by injuries to his playing time to only 10 games, completed 70.7% or more of his passes for 1,322 yards and 11 touchdowns. He ran 159 times, for 1,421 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also received 33 yards from one receiver.

“His lateral skills were just better than anybody I’ve ever seen,” Annese said. “His capacity to make somebody miss, just extraordinary.”

It also caught Falcons coach Arthur Smith’s attention. Smith, a lacrosse fan since high school at Georgetown Prep in suburban Washington, D.C., watched Bernhardt’s lacrosse film along with football. He enjoyed Bernhardt's ability to understand spacing and his approach to the crease.

He needs to understand the importance of structure. In football, everything in a route is timing and precision compared to lacrosse’s free-flowing movement.

“We’ll see if it can translate,” Smith said. “He hasn’t played receiver, so we’ll see if he can help us there. And if he can, maybe the role expands.”

It’s one of the things Bernhardt took from Hogan and Kennedy. This isn’t going to be easy. On-the-job learning is essential.

Hogan provided the best advice. Kennedy encouraged him to be patient, as it took him some time to adjust to the exactness and nuances of the routes.

“It’s movements he hasn’t done in a long time,” Kennedy said. “Or maybe ever.”

Bernhardt claimed that Kennedy and Hogan helped him learn route-tree drills and stances as well as getting in and outside of breaks.

“I appreciate those guys from doing that,” Bernhardt said. “And hope whatever happens, I inspire some other kid that’s a multi-sport guy that maybe wants to do something similar.”

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