Former Maryland lacrosse star Jared Bernhardt makes game-winning TD catch for Falcons in preseason opener

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In his first taste of the NFL, Jared Bernhardt had a moment to remember.

The former Maryland lacrosse star caught a game-winning touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder in the final minutes to lead the Atlanta Falcons over the host Detroit Lions, 27-23, in Friday night’s preseason opener.


Facing a fourth-and-9 at Detroit’s 21-yard line with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter and his team down three, Ridder took the snap and rolled to his right to evade pressure before lofting a pass to the front of the end zone. While blanketed by Lions cornerback Cedric Boswell, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Bernhardt worked back to the ball and caught it just past the goal line before falling to the ground and securing the catch. He was immediately mobbed by his teammates in celebration.

Falcons wide receiver Jared Bernhardt (83) and his teammates celebrate his 21-yard touchdown reception with less than two minutes to go during a 27-23 win over the Lions in Friday night's preseason opener.

Bernhardt, the 2021 Tewaaraton Award winner as the top college lacrosse player in the country, signed with Atlanta as an undrafted free agent in April after leading Ferris State to a Division II national title as a dual-threat quarterback. He worked out with Maryland football players at their pro day in College Park before the draft in front of NFL scouts, performing wide receiver and defensive back drills.


“It was a cool feeling coming back to College Park,” he said at the time. “I would definitely like to do better. I try to hold myself to a high standard.”

In five seasons with the Terps lacrosse team, he became one of the program’s most decorated players, setting school records in career points (290), goals (202), single-season points (99), single-season goals (71), goals in a single NCAA Tournament (18) and points in a single NCAA Tournament (24). At Ferris State, he returned to his football roots that began at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, Florida, amassing more than 2,700 yards and 37 touchdowns to be nominated for the 2021 Harlon Hill Trophy as the Division II College Football Player of the Year.

“He was one of the best football players I’ve coached in my 35-year coaching career,” said Ferris State coach Tony Annese, who has been at the school since 2011. “He’s a pure winner.”

Falcons wide receiver Jared Bernhardt catches a 21-yard touchdown pass with less than two minutes to go in a 27-23 win over the Lions in Friday night's preseason opener.