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Wide receiver Jared Bernhardt—a former lacrosse player who won the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s best men’s college player in 2021—has made the Atlanta Falcons’ 53-man roster, according to Field Yates of ESPN.
Bernhardt was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Falcons this offseason. His sporting journey is a fascinating one.
He played lacrosse at Maryland between 2017-21, where he won a national championship, was a first-team All-America selection twice and won the Tewaaraton, lacrosse’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy.
He then transferred to Division II’s Ferris State as a quarterback, where in 10 games he threw for 1,322 yards and 11 touchdowns, completing 70.7 percent of his passes, and rushed for 1,273 yards and 23 touchdowns. The school went undefeated and won a national championship.
“His lateral skills were just better than anybody I’ve ever seen,” Ferris State head coach Tony Annese told ESPN’s Michael Rothstein in May. “His capacity to make somebody miss, just extraordinary.”
So how did he end up as a wide receiver on the Falcons?
The team’s head coach, Arthur Smith, is a lacrosse fan after going to Washington D.C.’s Georgetown Prep, one of the premier high school lacrosse programs in the country.
“I had a bunch of buddies telling me about him,” he told The Athletic’s Josh Kendall in June. “The guy’s won wherever he has been. We will see if it can translate. He hasn’t played receiver. We’ll see if he can help us there, and if he can, we will see if the role expands.”
Clearly, it has translated, with Bernhardt earning himself a spot on the roster. During the preseason he nabbed five passes for 102 yards and a score, impressing the coaches enough during the games and training camp to stick around.
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For any undrafted free agent, making the practice squad would be an impressive enough achievement, let alone making the roster outright. But given Bernhardt’s unique journey, it’s all the more incredible.
The 6’1″, 195-pound Florida native will be battling for playing time in a wide receiver group that also includes 2022 first-round pick Drake London, KhaDarel Hodge, Damiere Byrd, Olamide Zaccheaus and Bryan Edwards.