Ferris State’s Jared Bernhardt Switches Schools, Switches Sports and Scores Touchdowns

BIG RAPIDS – Ferris State quarterback Jared Bernhardt made quite a first impression last week when he scored seven touchdowns in his first career start. It also happened to be his first football game since high school nearly five years ago.

For the last four years, Bernhardt has established himself as one of the best lacrosse players in the country. This spring, he was named the 2021 Division I Men’s Lacrosse Player of the Year after scoring a school-record 71 goals for Maryland. The Terrapins lost in the national championship to Virginia.

With graduation looming, Bernhardt said he was already considering football when he won the Player of the Year award.

“School was coming to an end and I kind of had to you know, figure out what I wanted to do after school. So I kind of figured ‘you know maybe I’ll look around and see if the opportunity’s there [to play football].'”

Ferris State head coach Tony Annese was more than happy to give him that opportunity after watching Bernhardt’s high school tape.

“You go back and watch his high school film and you say ‘wow!'” Annese said.

Bernhardt transferred to Ferris State, but consistent playing time was far from a guarantee. He found himself entrenched in a three-person quarterback battle with Mylik Mitchell and Evan Cummins.

The competition was so close that Annese did not name a starter prior to the season opener against Findlay. He gave Bernhardt the nod at game time, but only as a result of his game script for the first play: a designed quarterback run.

“He’s our best quarterback-run guy, you know, designed quarterback run. That’s all it was. If we had decided to do something different on the first play it might have been somebody else,” Annese said.

Bernhardt didn’t break free for a long score on that first run, but Annese said he didn’t want to be switching quarterbacks every few plays so Bernhardt got the first drive.

He capped off the nine-play opening drive with a rushing touchdown and added six more total touchdowns by the game’s end.

It’s been a summer of adjustments for Bernhardt. In the last three months, he won the Division I Player of the Year award in men’s lacrosse, transferred schools and abandoned lacrosse for a sport he hadn’t played since high school.

“My dad always said [football] is like a job. Not saying lacrosse wasn’t but there’s a lot going on in football so you’ve got to really take it serious,” Bernhardt said. “I haven’t played in awhile and there’s a lot of moving parts and things, especially being at the quarterback position.”

Seven touchdowns and a season opening win later, it appears Bernhardt is adjusting quite nicely.

“You see the tightness within the group. You’ve got 150 guys. We were tight at Maryland but there’s only about 50 dudes,” Bernhardt said of his new team. “Coming here and seeing that [camaraderie] is really special.”

Despite the seven touchdown performance, Annese said the quarterback competition isn’t over. Bernhardt, Mitchell and Cummins are still splitting reps in practice. The Bulldogs take on Ashland on the road at 7 p.m. Saturday.