Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University football program, which has reached the NCAA Division II National Quarterfinals or beyond each of the past four seasons, has bolstered its roster with the addition of talented student-athlete Jared Bernhardt (Longwood, Fla./Lake Brantley).
A graduate transfer, the 6-1, 195-pound Bernhardt has spent the past four seasons as one of the top men's collegiate lacrosse players on the NCAA Division I level at the University of Maryland. Prior to his college career as one of the country's top attackmen, though, he was one of the nation's top triple-option quarterbacks at Lake Brantley High School in Florida.
"Jared is a great young man who will have an opportunity to play quarterback in our system," said FSU head coach Tony Annese. "He's a dual-threat guy with tremendous movement skills and an outstanding athlete."
While at Maryland, Bernhardt was a 2019 finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, which is collegiate lacrosse's version of the Heisman Trophy. He became only the third player in Terrapins' history to score 50 goals with 51 a year ago. This year, he had compiled 20 goals and 29 points before the coronavirus pandemic shortened the season. He was on pace for 43 goals in the regular season, which would have given him 154 for his career or only one off the program record of 155. He presently ranks as Maryland's fifth all-time leading scorer. The four-year starter helped lead Maryland to the 2017 National Championship as a freshman and was both a three-time All-American and two-time All-Big Ten selection.
"I've always had the passion for football," Bernhardt told the NCAA. "I've always loved it. It never really went away, but being able to have the opportunity that I didn't think I would have, to be able to maybe go play somewhere, I never really thought about it. I just played. And then when the opportunity came, it was kind of a very surreal feeling. Obviously choosing lacrosse, it's definitely been in the back of my mind during my years at Maryland."
During his prep football career, Bernhardt totaled more than 4,000 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns over his final two seasons running the triple option. As a senior, he rushed for 1,457 yards and 12 touchdowns and passed for 751 yards and six scores in 11 games, leading a Patriots offense that averaged 486 yards per game. He was an All-Central Florida football choice as a senior by the Orlando Sentinel.
Bernhardt had a storied career at Lake Brantley in lacrosse as well, surpassing 400 career points as a prep midfielder. He was an Under Armour All-American and USA Today All-USA First Team honoree his final year after totaling 56 goals and 59 assists. The three-time All-Central Florida selection led Team USA to the U-19 World Championship in 2016 when he was tabbed as the U-19 World Championships Most Valuable Player and named to the All-World Team. Bernhardt set Florida's all-time assists record.
"He's just a multidimensional athlete, and my philosophy has always been that if you're an athlete, you can perform on the football field," Annese said. "Beyond that, I looked at his high school film and thought, My goodness gracious, this kid is a playmaker. So he's an elite athlete who was obviously successful there at Maryland in lacrosse. So immediately when we got an email from him inquiring about any interest we might have and his desire to play football, we got excited and pursued him."
The son of Catherine and the late Jim Bernhardt, Jared comes from an athletic family. His father played football and lacrosse at Hofstra and later became a longtime collegiate football coach and later an assistant for the NFL's Houston Texans. Two older brothers, Jake and Jesse, both played lacrosse at Maryland and were members of the 2018 USA Gold Medal Lacrosse Team who went on to play professionally in Major League Lacrosse and the Premier Lacrosse League. His brother Jesse is currently Maryland's defensive coordinator for men's lacrosse while Jake is an assistant coach at Vermont.
Bernhardt will join a competitive race at quarterback in a Bulldog program looking to replace a pair of talented signal callers who each completed their eligibility in 2018 Harlon Hill Trophy winner Jayru Campbell (Detroit/Cass Tech) and four-year letterwinner Travis Russell (Grand Rapids/West Catholic), who led the Bulldogs during their playoff run last fall. The Bulldogs do return a proven veteran with starting experience in junior Evan Cummins (Livonia/Churchill), who saw action in 12 games last fall, completing 50% of his passes and running for a squad third-best 454 yards on 82 carries with eight TD's.
Ferris State reached the national semifinals for the third time in four years in 2019. This past fall, along with reaching the national semifinals, FSU also claimed a second-straight GLIAC Championship with an unblemished league record. This past year marked the Bulldogs' fourth-straight trip to the national quarterfinals or beyond, which is the longest streak in the country. The national semifinal contest marked the first-ever semifinal played at home for the Bulldogs and the latest game ever played in a year at Top Taggart Field. Over the past two seasons, the Bulldogs have compiled a 27-2 mark.
Over the last six seasons at Ferris State, the Bulldogs have compiled a 72-9 overall record and claimed four conference championships, posted four unbeaten regular-seasons, captured three regional titles and reached the national quarterfinals four times. Ferris State has also accumulated three Harlon Hill National Player of the Year trophies, twice had a student-athlete tabbed as the nation's National Scholar-Athlete of the Year and won 12 postseason games in addition to an appearance in the 2018 National Championship game.
The Bulldogs are one of only four teams in all of college football at any NCAA level to win 11 games each of the last six years along with Alabama, Ohio State and North Dakota State. FSU is also the only D2 team in the country to reach the national quarterfinals for four consecutive years and the Bulldogs' six-straight playoff appearances is the second-longest longest streak in the nation.
Ferris State also holds the GLIAC's best mark and the best overall record of all 21 collegiate programs in Michigan at 87-16 overall since the arrival of Tony Annese as head coach in 2012.