Former Terps Lacrosse Star Jared Bernhardt Honoring Dad Jim With Ferris State Football

By playing football at Ferris State, former Maryland men’s lacrosse star and 2021 Tewaaraton Award winner Jared Bernhardt is honoring his late father.

Bernhardt had one year of eligibility in football after finishing his lacrosse career at Maryland this spring. With that opportunity, Bernhardt decided to honor his late father, Jim, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 63 after a battle with cancer, by playing football at Division II Ferris State (Big Rapids, Mich.).

Jim was a two-sport athlete at Hofstra, playing football and lacrosse. He later became a football coach, working at Hofstra, Brown, Central Florida and Penn State. Jim was also the director of football research for the Houston Texans under Bill O’Brien from 2014-2017.

“For sure,” Bernhardt said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 5 when asked if he was honoring his father by playing football. “I’ve got a replica of one of his family rings and stuff. I always kind of pay attention to that and [it’s] always kind of with me along this journey, which is special. Obviously wish he could be here to go along with me.”

The Bulldogs are 9-0 this season with the help of Bernhardt, who had received an offer from Navy to play football before deciding to play lacrosse at Maryland. His career has opened many doors for him, whether that is playing in the Premier Lacrosse League or pursuing a pro football career after this season at Ferris State.

As the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Bernhardt has played in seven games, completing 75.3 percent of his passes for 1,037 passing yards and eight passing touchdowns. He has also run the ball 87 times for 774 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Bernhardt credits his success to Bulldogs head coach Tony Annese and the way he runs his team. The former Terp explained how he originally got in touch with Annese.

“I got in contact with Coach Annese, heard about the program, saw a lot of similarities with the Maryland program — the culture and kind of what Coach Annese has established here about a tight-knit group,” Bernhardt said. “… They just come out and try to execute on Saturdays.”

The Bulldogs have their minds on a Division II national championship, something Bernhardt says would be “huge” for him and his teammates. Ferris State lost to Valdosta State, 49-47, in the title game in 2018.

“Getting to know these guys out here, they’ve been so close,” Bernhardt said. “With Maryland not having won a championship, that’s one of the things that [encouraged] me to go there. I wanted to be a part of bringing back the champion there and same with here, Ferris State.”

Before his historic career at Maryland and his storybook season at Ferris State, Bernhardt received that offer to play football for the Mids. Bernhardt explained his heart was with Maryland after the Terps’ 14-13 overtime loss to North Carolina in the 2016 national championship game.

“I was watching that game. It was a heartbreaker and I kind of felt for those guys,” Bernhardt said. “I just felt like that was the right place for me to go.”

Bernhardt attended Maryland from 2017-2021 and became one of the best lacrosse players Maryland has ever had. As a freshman, Bernhardt started all 19 games at midfield and totaled 28 points on 20 goals en route to a national championship.

Bernhardt moved to attack as a sophomore and kept finding the back of the net. His senior season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing for a history-making fifth year when he scored 71 goals. He was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and won the Tewaaraton Award, which honors the best lacrosse player in the nation.

Bernhardt finished his career as the Terps’ all-time leader in career points (290), goals (202), single-season points (99) and single-season goals (71).

Bernhardt’s future is still up in the air after playing for the Bulldogs. Bernhardt can join the PLL or pursue football further. His brothers, former Terps Jesse and Jake, both play in the PLL. Bernhardt has been in contact with former Penn State lacrosse midfielder and former Super Bowl champion wide receiver Chris Hogan for advice regarding his special situation.

However, Bernhardt has not made any decisions yet.

“I’m not really sure right now. I’m still trying to figure out a lot of things day-to-day with football,” Bernhardt said. “… Really just trying to kind of take it day-by-day and then once I decide to cross that bridge, obviously [will] sit down with my family and figure out what I want to pursue.”

Ferris State will face Wayne State Nov. 13 in its final regular-season game. The Division II playoffs start Nov. 20.

See Also: Jared Bernhardt Caps Stellar Career With Maryland Men’s Lacrosse

For more from Bernhardt, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ferris State Athletics