It doesn’t come as too much of a surprise to those who know Jared Bernhardt. The former Lake Brantley football and lacrosse star is driven, always one of the best athletes on the field no matter what he’s doing and he’s now a member of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
For those who know Bernhardt, his latest accomplishment comes as no surprise. Skip Clayton, Lake Brantley’s first-year head coach who was an assistant under his dad George Clayton when Bernhardt was at Brantley, has followed Bernhardt’s career.
“It’s exciting, especially for us. He was one of the greatest football players in the school’s history here at Brantley, but then didn’t pursue football originally in college,” Skip Clayton said. “We always knew he was one of the best in the country, if not the world, in lacrosse, so we always understood his decision … but we were disappointed we weren’t going to get to see him play [football] anymore.”
Eventually the coach would get that chance.
Bernhardt was a standout quarterback for Brantley as well as an all-American lacrosse player. The 2016 graduate made a tough decision in the fall of 2015 to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers, signing a National Letter of Intent to play lacrosse at Maryland.
Lacrosse would be his focus and he vowed to make the most of it, and he did.
The choice was difficult. It was either Maryland lacrosse or Navy football.
“I’ve been playing them both a long time, football longer than lacrosse,” Bernhardt told the Sentinel back then. “I don’t really have a favorite.”
Bernhardt’s bloodline tells the story of his passion and success. His father, Jim, who died at 63 in 2019, played lacrosse and football at Hofstra and was an adviser to then-Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien in the NFL.
His brothers, Jake, 26, and Jesse, 25, were successful two-sport athletes at Lake Brantley before playing lacrosse at NCAA power Maryland and then professionally.
At Maryland, given an extra year of eligibility after COVID hit, he won the 2021 Tewaaraton Award, the college lacrosse version of the Heisman Trophy.
But Bernhardt wasn’t done and football still loomed. He used a graduate transfer last season at Ferris State, where he played quarterback and led the Bulldogs to a 14-0 record and the NCAA Division II national championship.
The NFL took notice and he signed a free-agent contract with the Falcons after April’s NFL Draft. He was so impressive as a receiver in training camp that he made Atlanta’s 53-man roster.
“When he took that extra year at Ferris last year, we were all very excited,” Clayton said. “And Jared did what Jared does. He just wins. He’s a winner, an amazing athlete. He makes special things happen. He’s just someone you want around you.
“So for him to get a chance with Atlanta, just kind of knew he was going to find a way on to their roster. He’s just that kind of guy. He’s not the fastest kid, or the tallest, or the biggest … he’s just special.”
Another notable player to make the Falcons roster was former Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks. The ex-UF star made the team as a tight end, joining another former Gator, Kyle Pitts.
There were several other players not as fortunate as Bernhardt, getting released from the NFL.
In a bit of a surprising move, the Texans cut quarterback Jeff Driskel, who played at Hagerty and then Florida and Louisiana Tech. He’s has had NFL stints with the Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions and was with the Texans last season before being cut Tuesday.
He was expected to be the Texans backup quarterback to Davis Mills. Driskel will be on Houston’s practice squad.
Also hoping for better things this year out of camp was former Bishop Moore and Charlotte safety Ben DeLuca, who was released for the second straight year by the Los Angeles Chargers. He spent last season on the Chargers practice squad before being called up for the final three games.
Also missing out on final roster spots for the second straight season was running back Jacques Patrick (Timber Creek), who was released by the Bengals, and running back Dexter Williams (West Orange/Notre Dame) after the Packers cut him.
UCF players missing the cut were cornerback Tay Gowan (Philadelphia Eagles), tight end Jordan Franks (Kansas City Chiefs), linebacker Rashard Causey (Broncos) and offensive lineman Jordan McCray (Chicago Bears). Receiver Tre Nixon (New England Patriots) was placed on the practice squad, as was tight end Jordan Akins (Texans).
Transactions involving Florida Gators included offensive lineman David Sharpe and linebacker Jeremiah Moon, who were placed on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad. Safety Teez Tabor was placed on the Falcons practice squad. Players who were cut included offensive lineman Martez Ivey (Patriots), safety Quincy Wilson (Miami Dolphins), receiver John Hammond (Patriots), running back La’Mical Perine (Jets), defensive end Jabari Zuniga (Jets) and offensive tackle Chaz Green (Pittsburgh Steelers).
FSU cuts included linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen (Jets) and cornerback Terrence Brooks (Texans),
UM cuts: Center Danny Isidora (Cardinals), defensive tackle Gerald WIllis (Ravens), receiver Braxton Berrios (Jets), receiver Michael Harley (Browns), running back Malik Davis (Cowboys), cornerback Corn Elder (Commodores)
FAU cuts: Defensive tackle Brandin Bryant (Browns), tight end Zaire Mitchell-Paden (Browns) and cornerback Herb Miller (Browns).
USF cuts: Running back Marlon Mack (Texans).
FIU cuts: Cornerback Isiah Brown (Raiders).
Central Florida players on 2022 NFL rosters
Gabriel Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills (Seminole/UCF)
Matt Milano, LB, Buffalo Bills (Dr. Phillips/Boston College)
Tommy Townsend, P, Kansas City (Boone/Florida)
Trey Hendrickson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals (Apopka/FAU)
Karl Joseph, S, on IR, Pittsburgh Steelers (Edgewater/West Virginia)
Keanu Neal, S, Tampa Bay Bucs (South Sumter/Florida)
Kerby Joseph, S, Detroit Lions (Jones/Illinois)
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, WR, Tennessee Titans (Lake Mary/Indiana)
Leonard Williams, DE, New York Giants (Mainland/USC)
Darrynton Evans, RB, Chicago Bears (New Smyrna Beach/Appalachian State)
Jared Bernhardt, WR, Atlanta Falcons (Lake Brantley/Maryland/Ferris State)
Jamel Dean, CB, Tampa Bay Bucs (Cocoa/Auburn)
Marcus Maye, S, New Orleans Saints (Melbourne Holy Trinity/Florida)
Stone Forsythe, OT, Seattle Seahawks (West Orange/Florida)
Juwaan Taylor, OT, Jacksonville (Cocoa/Florida)
Jashaun Corbin, RB, New York Giants (Rockledge/FSU)
State college players on 2022 NFL rosters
Ronald Darby, CB, Denver Broncos
Bobby Hart, OT, Buffalo Bills
Jermaine Johnson, DE, New York Jets
Lamarcus Joyner, S, New York Jets
Josh Kaindoh, DE, Kansas City Chiefs
Derrick Nnadi, DT, Kansas ity Chiefs
Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Los Angeles Chargers
Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers
Dustin Hopkins, K, Los Angeles Chargers
Terrence Brooks, S, Houston Texans
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vkings
Graham Gano, K, New York Giants
Josh Sweat, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Marvin Wilson, DT, Philadelphia Eagles
Rodney Hudson, C, Arizona Cardinals
Brian Burns DE, Carolina Panthers
Cameron Irving, OT, Carolina Panthers
P.J. Williams, S, New Orleans Saints
Jameis Winston, QB, New Orleans Saints
Azeez Al-Shaairm, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Tyrie Cleveland, WR, Denver Broncos
Kaiir Elam, CB, Buffalo Bills
Trent Brown, OT, New England Patriots
Carlos Dunlap, DE, Kansas City Chiefs
Demarcus Robinson, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Zachary Carter, DT, Cincinnati
Evan McPherson, K, Cincinnati Bengals
Taven Bryan, DT, Cleveland Browns
Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans
Johnathan Greenard, DE, Houston Texans
Jonathan Bullard, DE, Minnesota Vkings
Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Dallas Cowboys
Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants
John Bostic, LB, Washington Commodores
D.J. Humphries, OT, Arizona Cardinals
Marco Wilson, CB, Arizona Cardinals
CJ Henderson, CB, Carolina Panthers
Eddie Pineiro, K, Carolina Panthers
Duke Johnson, RB, Buffalo Bills
Greg Rousseau, DE, Buffalo Bills
Jaquan Johnson, S, Buffalo Bills
Jalean Phillips, LB, Miami Dolphins
Deon Bush, S, Kansas City Chiefs
Denzel Perryman, LB, Las Vegas Raiders
Calais Campbell, DT, Baltimore Ravens
David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns
Phillip Dorsett, WR, Houston Texans
Brevin Jordan, TE, Houston Texans
K.J. Osborn, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Jon Feliciano, OG, New York Giants
Quincy Roche, LB, New York Giants
Artie Burns, CB, Seattle Seahawks
DeeJay Dallas, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Travis Homer, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Mike Jackson, CB, Seattle Seahawks
Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Jacksonville Jaguars
Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Jacksonville
Shaquill Griffin, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Brandon Johnson, WR, Denver Broncos, IR
Charley Hughlett, LS, Cleveland Browns
Justin McCray, OG, Houston Texans
Trysten Hill, DT, Dallas Cowboys
Aaron Robinson, CB, New York Giants
Matt Prater, K, Arizona Cardinals
Richie Grant, S, Atlanta Falcons
Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills
Desmond Noel, OG, Cincinnati Bengals, IR
Harrison Bryant, TE, Cleveland Browns
James Pierre, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Greg Joseph, K, Minnesota Vkings
Zyon Gilbert, CB, New York Giants
Mike Love, DE, Buffalo Bills
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Mitchell Wilcox, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
D’Ernest Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Jonnu Smith, TE, New England Patriots (FIU); Donald Parham Jr., TE, Los Angeles Chargers (Stetson); D’Anthony Bell, S, Cleveland Browns (West Florida); Markquese Bell, S, Dallas Cowboys (Florida A&M); Stantley Oliver-Thomas III, LB, Carolina Panthers (FIU).
Not all rosters and practice squads have been made official. Email Chris Hays at email@example.com with any discrepancies. Chris Hays cover High school, college football recruiting and the NFL