Sports | August 31, 2022 3:21 pm

Only a Wide Receiver Since May, Freak Athlete Jared Bernhardt Makes Falcons

Last year, Bernhardt went from the nation's top college lacrosse player to a D-II national football quarterback

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Jared Bernhardt warms up prior to a game. The former D-II was a surprise addition to Atlanta's final roster as a WR, a position he had only played since May.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Jared Bernhardt is an unlikely NFL player.
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty

One of the best attackmen of his generation, Jared Bernhardt became the all-time leader in points (290) and goals (202) during his four years taking the field for the lacrosse powerhouse that is Maryland. Not content with leaving college after winning the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s top college lacrosse player, Bernhardt transferred to Ferris State in Michigan as a fifth-year senior to continue his athletic career…playing football.

Despite not having played football competitively since high school in 2015, Bernhardt dominated Division II as a triple-option QB and accumulated 1,322 passing yards and 11 touchdowns via the air and 1,421 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns on the ground over just 10 games. Had the 24-year-old not missed four games due to injury, he likely would’ve won the Harlon Hill Trophy (D-II’s Heisman). Voted conference player of the year, Bernhardt led Ferris to a perfect 14-0 season and the program’s first-ever D-II football championship. In Ferris State’s final game, Bernhardt didn’t throw a pass and had three touchdown runs in the first half as the Bulldogs cruised to a 58-17 rout of Valdosta State. Bernhardt finished with 148 yards rushing on 14 carries and sat out most of the second half.

A gifted passer and a talented rusher in what is still probably his second-best sport, Bernhardt apparently has a pretty good set of hands as well as he just made the made the Atlanda Falcons’ 53-man roster as a wide receiver despite never having played the position before May. To go along with his roster spot, the undrafted wideout got a three-year, $2.6 million deal.

Following in the footsteps of former Penn State lacrosse star/Super Bowl winner Chris Hogan, Bernhardt registered five catches for 102 yards and a touchdown in three preseason games for the Falcons, but will have his work cut out for him to move up on Atlanta’s depth chart. Based on what Bernhardt has been able to accomplish thus far, it doesn’t seem very smart to bet against him despite the long odds.

“He can play in space. Leverage. Spatial awareness,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said when discussing Bernhardt’s top traits. “I love his competitiveness, but he has a lot of work to do. I’ll say it’s been pretty eye-opening to see how quickly he’s made the transition,” said Smith. “I’ll give him credit there. So, I’m excited to keep working with him.”

Now that Bernhardt has locked down a spot on Atlanta’s 53, Smith will have the opportunity to do so.